Part 4 of 4
The primarily cause for the sanctions against Russian interests was the annexation of the Crimea and invasion of the Ukraine by Russia which were violations of international law and not justifiable, just as the human rights violations are not justifiable.
The confrontational, but weak reaction to these events by the Obama administration, instead of a more prudent and retrained reaction gave only the “illusion of success.”
Conceivably less arrogance, ignorance and idealism and understanding of Russian history, culture, insecurity, distrust of the liberal order and a better insight of the political system could have given guidance.
In order to comprehend the country is to look at Russia as a “theocratic nationalist autocracy,” a political system in which the Elite are funded in exchange for their support and the consequence for dissent are too high. After 400+ years of autocratic culture Vladimir Putin, a 21st Century Czar rules Russia with and through the wealthy few and is opposed to western style democracy, a choise which is Russia’s to make.
The country seems to have made a full turn since the revolution in 1917, in fact the country has returned to its origins during Peter the Great during which the Aristocracy ruled over the serfs and Prince Fyodor Yuryevich operated the secret police “Preobrazhensky prikaz.”
Today it is if the revolution never happened and the situation seems not much different, with Russia controlled by the oligarchs, a few thousand masters ruling over a hundred and forty million commoners who are making $5 to $ 7 a day in retirement payments and who like with the serfs don’t complain, with the Federal Security Service FSB keeping a safe and watchful eye disallowing any dissent which could lead to the evils of equal representation and democracy.
It might be sensible, despite the romantic views we have in the west to realize Russia will hardly change, not with or after Vladimir Putin and it is likely given the absence of a successor, a successor will come from the inner circle, someone who will resemble Putin’s autocratic leadership style and his defence of Russian interests.
The reaction of the Obama administration has worsened rather than improved the situation and as Eric Lorber and Julia M. MacDonald write in “Sensible sanctions” and might have goaded Putin into increasing his involvement in the Ukraine crisis.
In doing so President Barack Obama confirmed the perceived hostility from the west, increased Putin’s popularity and led to the growth in Russian patriotism and nationalism.
The sanctions against Russian interests, instead of engaging but seeking to isolate Russia have strategic and economic reasons of which some are secondary and can be found in the modernization of the Russian refinery sector and Russian investments in the European refinery sector.
They were influenced by U.S. Oil & Gas (LNG) interests which is reflected in the opposition to the Nordstream2 project, which is the most cost-effective option for meeting EU increasing energy needs. Regardless of whether the project goes forward Russia currently accounts for nearly 40 percent of EU gas imports and that the U.S. itself imports billions of barrels of Russian oil.
The sanctions have undermined the objective of integration Russia in the global economy, and have shown other countries the danger of integrating financial institutions into American led systems and the influence of U.S. $ dominated transactions.
The effect has also been most connections between Russia and Europe have ceased which has also negative repercussions on the internal Russian situation, the disadvantaged in Russian society have been targeted, the rule of law, the functioning of institutions and Russia has made a full circle and returned to the default state of the early days of 16th century feudalism.
What is the reality of President Barack Obama “feel good” sanction moment? The Russian economy was able to weather the economic storm thanks to the two National Wealth funds which reserves were built up over years with profits from oil & gas exports and the sanctions against Russian interests have led to increased consensus in the strategic partnership between China and Russia, which has become deeper and more comprehensive during the last eight years, encompassing security, economics, technology, and global governance.
Today in less than a decade the percentage of Chinese trade in Russia’s overall trade turnover has nearly doubled. Military cooperation has developed in such a way that Russia sells its latest military equipment to China, and the two countries hold joint military exercises on an increasingly large scale and over an ever-expanding geographical area, from the Baltic to the South China Sea.
These developments in the Sino-Russian axis are significant and the increases in China’s and Russia’s power are relative to that of the U.S.. These recent developments are based on resentment and contempt both nationalistic and authoritarian regimes share for the Liberal order of the West and on Russia’s willingness to accommodate China’s great power ambitions.
In present climate, regime change, to replace the current regime of Vladimir Putin in Russia must be assumed to be the end-goal. Although the stated U.S. goal is to change Russia’s policies which is after eight years of sanctions unbelievable given the U.S. strategy of regime change since the 1950’s from Vietnam to Iran and Iraq, from South America to Libya which have one thing in common they failed.
In every case as Philip H. Gordon writes in “The false promise of regime change” policy makers overstated the threat faced by the United States, underestimated the challenges of ousting a regime, and embraced the optimistic assurances of exiles or local actors with little power and failed to anticipate the chaos resulting in massive financial coasts and human suffering.
Now after eight years the conclusion is warranted, not only are the sanctions a misguided attempt at regime change in Russia and is the effectiveness of sanctions against Russian interests, for which we Europeans are paying the economic price most dubious, but they may also bear serious unforeseen and undesirable consequence. As James Goldgeier writes “U.S.-Russian relations will only get worse and even good diplomacy can’t smooth a clash of interests.”
The words of Dr Henry Kissinger are as true today as in 2016 when they were spoken
“Russia should be perceived as an essential element of any global equilibrium. We need not a confrontation but a dialogue with Russia in order to merge our futures. There are opportunities for cooperation on global issues which should be used.”
Today we could us some of Henry Kissinger’s historical understanding, realism and pragmatism. After all the Crimea and Ukraine are rather insignificant family disputes and the annexation of the Crimea has become a fait accompli, not uncommon in our European history which has known enough peace treaties which have had territorial concessions enabling overall solutions.
Perhaps in time when wisdom prevails and a better international climate has been created, if ever and pragmatic solutions can be found based on a formula whereby
a. the Crimea annexation is recognized;
b. the Ukraine is resolved based on land swaps;
c. Russia view’s on its vital interests, avoiding hostile countries on its borders are accepted leading to a new security arrangement in Europe;
d. In such a new security arrangement NATO ends its expansion and Ukraine’s membership in the alliance is rejected.