Western goals in the mirror of anti-Russian sanctions

The “Tomahawks” in Syria have buried an optimistic scenario of Russian-American relations. And the pessimistic scenario could have been foreseen on March 31, when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the Ukraine-NATO commission laid all the blame for Russia for the crisis in the Donbass. Under this speech, his predecessor, John Kerry, could easily subscribe: “As we have repeated at every ministerial meeting and at every summit since the beginning of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, NATO allies strongly support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine … We note with concern the escalation Violence on the contact line and repeated targeted attacks on the civilian infrastructure of the separatist forces led by Russia. We will continue to consider Russia responsible for fulfilling its Minsk commitments. US sanctions will continue until Moscow reconsiders the actions that caused our sanctions … The sanctions related to the Crimea should be preserved until Russia regains control over the peninsula of Ukraine, “etc.

By the way on March 17 this sanctions was fulfilled for three years. As you know, then they expanded more than once. During this time it became clear that sanctions would not bring down the Russian economy, but thanks to them and their surrounding rhetoric, the goals of the West in the Ukrainian conflict look much clearer.

Two problems – two types of sanctions

So, there are two types of sanctions, Crimean and Donbass. As well as there are two problems. More precisely, the problem by and large alone, only Russia is trying to solve it in many ways. In the maximally neutral terminology for the conflicting parties is the problem of discontent with the population of a certain territory as the status of this territory.

In the case of the Crimea, the option was chosen of joining this territory to another state on the basis of the desire of the population. Such a precedent in history is not the first. In general, the idea of ​​the right of peoples to self-determination was actively thrown in precisely in connection with the annexation of the Papal States belonging to the Papal States – Avignon and Venezsen. Italy also joined the Venetian region, formerly part of the Austrian Empire, but ceded by Austria to France after the defeat in the war of 1866. (The accession to Italy of the Neapolitan kingdom and other territories is another example: full adherence of one state to another). As far as these connections were really voluntary, it is impossible to say objectively. It is enough to read in the French and Italian Wikipedia the history of the annexation of the county of Nice to France during the French Revolution. Narratives as different as Russia and Ukraine in the case of the Crimea (only emotions less).

Nevertheless, this practice was not widely used in the 20th century and later. Of course, one can recall the annexation of Western Ukrainian and Western Belorussian regions of Poland to the USSR. But this example is not too successful, because it is about joining in the conditions of war, when at first the Polish state actually disappeared. So the closest analogy to the Crimea is the annexation of the Alexandret Sanjak of Syria to Turkey in 1939. But here too the comparison is lame. First, at the time of accession, Syria was not a sovereign state, but a mandated territory of France. Secondly, the accession was preceded by a period of 10-month formal independence of Sanjak, which was renamed Hatay State. There is another precedent for the transfer of the territory of Acre from Bolivia to Brazil. But it dates back to 1903 and it was preceded by 3 years of the existence of Akri as a self-proclaimed republic.

But after World War II, there was either the complete annexation of one state to another (Germany, Yemen) or the creation of a new state by secession from the existing part of the territory (the disintegration of the USSR and Yugoslavia, the appearance on the map of Abkhazia and Southern Sudan, etc.) .).

True, even before the Crimea, the Avignon variant of the solution of the issue was not denied in international law (but by agreement of all parties). Thus, the Belfast Agreement of 1998 permits the possibility of Northern Ireland joining the Irish Republic in case the majority of the population in the province wishes. And after Brexit such a prospect looks not at all such a purely abstract possibility as it seemed two decades ago.

But also taking into account all precedents the Crimean variant of the solution of the problem looks much less common for the present times in comparison with the Donbas variant. More precisely, with the option that Russia offers for settlement and which is reflected in the Minsk agreements. Solving the problem through state autonomization of the problem area is a frequent occurrence. In this way regional and ethnic problems were successfully solved, and where it did not reach the military conflict (Belgium, Spain, Italy), and where it reached him (Northern Ireland, Macedonia, Bosnia and outside Europe – Indonesia, Mali etc .).

From the standpoint of abstract international law, sanctions look more logical in connection with the Crimea. But the content of the Crimean sanctions – this is only a way for the West, first, to express a negative attitude towards individual politicians of Russia, and secondly, to exclude Crimea from the world economy. Yes, they create some problems, but I think everyone understands that by introducing these measures, the West did not think that Russia would return the peninsula because of them. The US and Europe had just to express their displeasure.

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The sanctions introduced in connection with the situation in the Donbass in July 2014 are much larger. And they were introduced with the clear goal of damaging the Russian economy. Yes, since the catastrophe from sanctions for so long did not happen, it is clear that it will not be in the future. Consequently, the calculations were erroneous. However, in this article I’m not interested in the concrete effect of sanctions, but on what background was the process of transition from threats to action. Moreover, a stereotype about sanctions has already emerged as a consequence of the “Boeing” shot down on July 17th. And he is just mistaken.

The Ukrainian armistice and the European ultimatum

Talks about new sanctions as the conflict grew in the Donbass sounded from the spring of 2014 constantly. But for the first time the abstract threat was concretized in the ultimatum on June 27, 2014. Here under what circumstances it was. On June 20, two weeks after his inauguration, Petro Poroshenko announced a one-way ceasefire for up to 22 hours on June 27. June 23, the first talks are taking place between representatives of Kiev and the self-proclaimed republics. The next day, at the suggestion of Vladimir Putin, the Federation Council recalls the permission to deploy troops to Ukraine.

And on June 27 Poroshenko goes to Brussels, where the Council of the Heads of State of the EU takes place, at which the agreement on the association of the European Union and Ukraine was signed. In the final conclusions, the Council states that sanctions can be imposed without delay and “expects” (in the original, just such a verb) that by June 30, four steps will be taken. These are: an agreement on the mechanisms for verifying the cease-fire and control of Ukraine’s border with Russia, the return of three border points seized by the militia to the Ukrainian side, the release of hostages, the commencement of negotiations on the implementation of Poroshenko’s peace plan.

At the same time, the EU’s ultimatum was tied to the extension of the ceasefire, which was then said frankly by French President Francois Hollande when Poroshenko had not yet announced the extension of the ceasefire: “The European Council approved a text that suggests that if 4 points are not met within 72 hours, since President Poroshenko agreed to extend the cease-fire, then decisions (on sanctions – AP) will be taken. ”

Now let’s see how the cease-fire and the announcement of sanctions were correlated in 2001, during the armed rebellion of the Albanians in Macedonia. Then NATO and the EU, under the threat of sanctions and the suspension of the association agreement, demanded from the Macedonian authorities not only to declare a unilateral cease-fire but also to sign such an agreement with NATO representatives as guarantors. In particular, it implied the withdrawal of Macedonian troops from a number of positions and the creation of demilitarized zones. Already after that, a similar agreement was signed with Albanian rebels (and on the territory of Kosovo, where they received weapons). And a month later, with the backdrop of non-compliance with the ceasefire, the Ohrid Peace Agreement was signed, which satisfied the basic demands of the Albanians.

That is, in Macedonia, the threat of sanctions was a means of ending the war and supporting the Albanian rebels. Thanks to it, the country was transformed into a specific two-communal confederation (the Albanian part of Macedonia is not territorially allocated, but the decisions of the parliament on a number of issues require a majority from the deputies of both communities). In the Donbas, the threat of sanctions was a way of suppressing the pro-Russian insurgents, all the more so since Kiev did not make any demands either then or in the future. Yes, at times, at the time, there were voices about the need for a political solution, a ceasefire and proportionality in the use of weapons. But they were uttered without hints that Ukrainian actions do not comply with these declarations.

Not surprisingly, the cease-fire from Ukraine then lasted exactly 3 days. Then the bloodiest phase of the Donbas conflict began.

Before Boeing fell

Kiev’s resumption of hostilities, however, did not lead to the simultaneous announcement of sanctions against Russia. On the contrary, on July 1, the West – namely German Foreign Minister Steinmeier – speaks for the first time about the non-alternative nature of a political solution to the conflict. However, neither he nor anyone else criticized Ukraine directly. And making out the decision on sanctions, the European Council justified this by saying that the June ultimatum was not fulfilled, although it happened a little later. Consequently, the meaning of Europe’s then public stance was one thing: to create a false impression of its non-involvement in the offensive launched by the Ukrainian army at the time.

The offensive initially developed successfully. In the first days of the APU they occupied the Slavic-Kramatorsk agglomeration. Against this background, the sanction rhetoric persisted, and a new similar ultimatum with a three-day deadline was likely to be put forward. Only non-public. So, on July 13, Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel met at the finals of the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, and on July 16 the Council of the Heads of State of the EU announces the introduction of sanctions of a new level.

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The key point of conclusions of this council is: “The European Council regrets that the steps that it demanded in its conclusions of June 27 have not been adequately taken. As a result, the European Council agrees to expand restrictive measures, making them the target of legal entities, in particular from the Russian Federation. ” Further, he was instructed “to develop the necessary legal instruments and to adopt by the end of July a decision regarding the first list of individuals and legal entities, in particular from the Russian Federation, which will be subject to extended criteria.”

If the European sanctions were then only announced, but not specified, then the US on July 16 has already introduced specific measures. They announced the freezing of assets of eight Russian enterprises of the defense sector and financial sanctions against two banking companies (Gazprombank and VEB) and two energy corporations (Novatek and Rosneft).

And on July 17, the European Parliament adopted resolution 2014/2717 (RSP) “On Ukraine”, where the content of sectoral sanctions against Russia was articulated more clearly than in the decision of the European Council. It said that the EP “welcomes the preparatory work of the Council, the EEAS and the member states on further sanctions against Russia, which should extend to the economic, financial and energy sectors, and also include an embargo on the sale of weapons and dual-use technologies.” That is, there was talk of all the spheres that were sentenced within two weeks.

It is worth quoting a few more fragments of this resolution, because no document of that time shows so eloquently the moods of Europe. Thus, the European Parliament “welcomes the recent successes of the Ukrainian forces in the east of Ukraine to resume control over several important cities,” and “reaffirms Ukraine’s right to self-defense in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter.” This link showed that for Europeans the conflict in the Donbass was not considered internal, because in Article 51 it is a question of “an armed attack on a Member of the Organization”. Against this background, however, there were calls for a cease-fire, but they were actually addressed to one side, which the EP offered to surrender, leaving the Donbass. Thus, the resolution called on Moscow “to use its influence on insurgents and mercenaries to force them to adhere to the ceasefire, to lay down their arms and return to Russia through the corridor proposed by Poroshenko’s peace plan as the first long-awaited concrete steps that would prove Russia’s seriousness On the de-escalation of the crisis. ”

The news about the adoption of the EP resolution appeared on the infor- mation data just at the moment when Boeing, following the MH17 flight Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur, taxied to the runway of Schipol airport.

Sanction support of the Ukrainian offensive

Thus, the content of sanctions was agreed in principle before this catastrophe. The official decisions on them were taken on July 31 after the telephone conversation of the G-7 countries held on the eve of the telephone conversation. Perhaps after the “Boeing” they are more tougher than their original version. However, this is not a transition to a new level of sanctions, but only a correction within the previously agreed level.

The dependence between the formulation of sectoral sanctions and the situation at the front, as well as the steps of Moscow, looks like this.

The threat of imposing sanctions is becoming an ultimatum after Moscow abolishes permission to deploy troops to Ukraine.

The principal decision on sanctions is taken after the entry of the Ukrainian army into Slavyansk and Kramatorsk and announcements of Russia’s readiness to admit Ukrainian border guards and OSCE observers to their Gukovo and Donetsk checkpoints (voiced by Lavrov on July 2).

Sanctions are formalized and come into effect firstly the day after the OSCE takes decisions on the deployment of its observers at these checkpoints (they and Ukrainian border guards are still there), secondly, against the background of the greatest successes of the Ukrainian army in this campaign. Thus, in the third decade of July, the APU approaches Donetsk and Lugansk and joins Lisichansk, Severodonetsk, Rubezhnoye, whereas in the future none of the major cities except Debaltseva will pass under their control.

That is, the greater the success of the Ukrainian army and the greater concessions Russia made, the more determined the West became in terms of sanctions. This interdependence clearly shows that the EU and the US were not interested in any political settlement on the patterns that had been achieved earlier both in Europe and beyond. For in those cases, the federalization or separation of autonomous territories on a national scale meant the autonomy of non-Russians, but of Basque Albanians, Irish, Tuareg and other ethnic groups. And the sanctioning actions of the West look most logical only if they consider it their goal to turn Ukraine into a maximally homogeneous state opposing Russia. And for this it is necessary that she as a maximum won in the Donbass, at least – would not yield.

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And for the different weight of sanctions in two regions, the idea is seen: If the main thing is that the Russians in Ukraine do not have any status, then one should not insist on the Crimea, for the very existence of the Crimean autonomy, even if it’s very stubborn, blurs Ukrainian unitarity. Of course, one can understand this and so, the requirements for Moscow corresponded to the technology “step by step”. Let him first make concessions, believing that this is a question of exchanging Donbass for the Crimea, and then the question of the return of the peninsula to Ukraine.

In favor of the version of the direct linkage of sanctions to Ukrainian military successes, says the episode, which seems to be knocked out of the scheme. So the West announced the tightening of sanctions on August 30, 2014 after the defeat of the Ukrainian army, and the practical decision taken immediately after the conclusion of the first Minsk agreement gave sanctions the kind in which they exist now. However, at that time it was not a question of a qualitatively new level in comparison with July, but of a certain deepening of the measures taken then, for example, the maximum credit terms for the Russian five banks declined from 90 days to 30, etc. But if we consider the assistance of the Ukrainian army as a sense of sanctions, then everything is logical because it became clear once that it can not win in Donbas, then why should they be deepened qualitatively, especially since at the current level it should not yield to the conflict. And the fact that Ukraine can not win in the Crimea was clear from the very beginning, and this circumstance explains the modest scale of the Crimean sanctions.

The anti-Russian territory is more important than the European market

Yes, there were politicians in the West who understood in July 2014 that Ukraine can not win in the Donbass. For example, German government commissioner for cooperation with Russia and Eastern Partnership countries, Gernot Erler, then said that the Kremlin would not allow the fall of Donetsk and Lugansk anyway. I admit that even more politicians in the West thought the same way, but did not talk about it. However, in itself, the fact of war with the same as now no-man’s outcome, was consistent with Western goals.

After all, the West needed Ukraine to go through a point of no return to the traditional multi-vector system. In itself, the victory of the Maidan did not yet look like this. But full-scale military operations on the land of Donbass created an invisible but bloody strait between Ukraine and Russia, to build a bridge through which it is much more complicated than through the Kerch strait.

If the goal were fundamentally different, then the West, even before July 2014, would firmly and publicly threaten sanctions to both sides, calling them to peace. And the reasons for such a position were not only in maintaining its image as the custodian of higher civilizational values: the right to life, the priority of human rights over state interests, peaceful resolution of the conflict. This position was primarily economically viable. The role of Ukraine as a market for European goods required preservation of peace as prerequisites for preserving the purchasing power of consumers of these goods .. For, despite the removal of import restrictions provided by the association with the EU, which occurred on January 1, 2016, imports from the European Union to Ukraine in comparison with the last peaceful 2013 decreased by 10 billion dollars, or by 38%. Consequently, as an anti-Russian territory, Ukraine is much more important to the West as a market.

Since the sectoral sanctions have acquired their present form, in fact nothing has changed. So Donald Trump, after the inauguration, gave the signals, where he did not link the preservation of sanctions with the Ukrainian crisis. But Tillerson’s last speech shows that this idea has died out. Representatives of the ruling circles of Europe did not offer anything, in addition to the mantra that filled the mouth of Russia’s implementation of the Minsk agreements, without specifying what exactly is meant. It seems that the only refinement of the conditions was the proposal of the already mentioned Erler. On November 6, 2015, speaking at Southwestern Radio-2 in Baden-Baden, he said that “Moscow can push the end of sanctions with one gesture” if it passes the border under Kiev’s control without waiting for the fulfillment of other points of the Minsk agreements. And the fact that such a politician has proposed that has the reputation of Russophile and can sometimes criticize Kiev’s actions in the Donbass, even better emphasizes the true goals of the European elite in this conflict.

And since no new ideas have been voiced from the moment, then Europe understands that it does not have the means to achieve its goal, but it can not abandon the very goal.

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