Western sanctions against Russia cannot replace real diplomacy
17 September 2018. PenzaNews. The US’ sanctions policy against Russia, China and other EU trading partners significantly affects Europe and makes Germany react to Washington’s actions, said German Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas in his speech at the annual conference of the heads of the German diplomatic missions abroad.
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He reminded that the EU is working to develop institutions that are independent from the US, in particular the European Monetary Fund and the creation of a payment system that would make it possible to preserve business relations with Tehran.
Donald Trump winning the US presidential elections showed that “we do not know America as much as we thought,” he said stressing that Europe “needs a new, balanced partnership with the United States.”
According to observers, European politicians and experts have recently begun to speak more about the harm of US sanctions, which have negative impact on the bilateral relations between Brussels and Moscow.
For example, during the meeting with ambassadors and other diplomats in the Prague Castle on August 30, Czech President Milos Zeman stated that “the anti-Russian sanctions affect both sides.”
He expressed confidence that the European Council should not extend sanctions against Russia. Moreover, Czech President stressed that prominent politicians from Slovakia, Austria, Hungary and Italy have also spoken out against anti-Russian sanctions.
According to the German political scientist Andreas Maurer, for years of sanctions the European Union could not find a full replacement of Russia in the field of trade.
“The European countries never managed to find new markets or to develop markets other than in Russia in the same way. Economic sanctions first and foremost hit Germany, Spain, France and Greece. We see that agricultural products, especially cheese and vegetables from France were exported to Russia. Because of sanctions, the European market could not encash all these products at home,” the analyst told RT.
According to him, “the continuation of the sanctions policy can turn into a complete loss of Russian market for the EU countries” in the next five years.
“Europe can deprive itself of the opportunity to be present in Russia and earn money. It is clear that the issue of import substitution is developing in Russia, new projects are being developed. Now the Europeans, especially German and French companies, still have a chance to return to the Russian market. We know that Russia has a very positive attitude to French, German and Italian products, so the potential for the sales is very large. But if the policy of sanctions continues for the next five years, the chance to return to the Russian market for many European companies may disappear,” Andreas Maurer stressed.
Meanwhile, a number of media reported on a possible meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, during which the parties plan to discuss the state of bilateral relations before Washington could potentially introduce a second round of sanctions against Moscow because of the so-called Skripal case.
Analyzing the current situation, Fernand Kartheiser, Luxembourg Parliament member for the Alternative Democratic Reform Party (ADR), pointed to serious contradictions in the political views of Western states.
“My feeling is that the West is so deeply split that nobody is able, for the time being, to take the lead on any issue. American initiatives are eyed suspiciously in Europe and European initiatives are not really welcome in Washington. There is no clear policy on anything for the time being, and the sanctions issue, even though important, is just yet another victim of this situation,” the politician told PenzaNews.
At the same time, the position of the Czech president, in his opinion, should not be left without attention of the leaders of the larger countries of Europe.
“The comments seem to be obvious under such circumstances. First, none of the larger European States has a strong government for the time being. Germany. France, Britain and Italy have all other problems that seem to be far more important than the sanctions issue. None has a really clear view about Russia and the developments in Eastern Europe. We are in a foreign policy lame duck scenario. Therefore the initiatives coming from smaller states are both important and welcome,” Fernand Kartheiser said.
In his opinion, the meeting between the Russian Foreign Minister and the US Secretary of State would be an absolute necessity in these circumstances.
“It would certainly contribute to a better climate. […] Overall, sanctions cannot replace diplomacy. Nowadays, they are used much too quickly, especially when there is no clear scenario how to get out of them. Instead of helping to resolve problems, sanctions increasingly become a problem for themselves. Maybe that is one of the consequences of a too large number of political summit meetings. If diplomats were given again a better chance to work on the issues quietly, we would probably see more solutions and less tension,” Luxembourg Parliament member explained.
In turn, Michael Geary, Global Fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, noted that the majority of European and EU leaders are in favour of maintaining the current set of sanctions, and only those “with long-standing pro-Russia sympathies” have called for their removal.
“But we should not conflate those who are calling for a more measured approach to the latest round of US global trade policy changes and those sanctions specifically directed at Russia,” the expert said.
According to him, many European politicians have voiced concern about US actions in the area of international trade.
“The erratic trade policy currently being pursued, almost unilaterally, by President Trump, has a very nationalistic hue […] and has a major impact on exports of certain goods to the US from Canada, Mexico, Turkey, China, the EU and elsewhere. Trump’s goal of making America great again will be achieved through reshaping traditional trading relations between Washington and the wider world to the clear advantage of the US,” Michael Geary explained.
Turning to the sanctions on Russia, he expressed the opinion that “this is an issue that is better viewed through a security lens” because “Russia is seen by many, on both sides of the Atlantic, as a national security risk.”
The analyst also suggested that sanctions are likely to remain in place indefinitely because those calling for an end to sanctions are in the minority with limited decision-making power.
“The EU has recently renewed theirs and further sanctions are likely in the US linked to issues related to election interference. It seems unlikely that a bilateral meeting between the US and Russia top diplomats will change that,” Michael Geary said, adding that “Pompeo, himself a former member of Congress, will be under pressure from members of his own party, including those who sit on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.”
Meanwhile, Anton Friesen, Member of the foreign affairs committee and the committee on humanitarian assistance and human rights of the German Parliament, stated that sanctions are not in the interest of most EU-countries, especially Germany.
“Russia is the 13th biggest trade partner of Germany, with about 57 billion euros. In contrast the trade volume between Russia and the United States is only 24 billion US-dollars. You see, the United States has less money to lose in the matter of sanctions. By the way, the US itself is trading with Russia – just look at Russian LNG-deliveries to the US: there were already three this year. As I see it, the American sanctions are an example of economic warfare to harm trade relations between EU and Russia and to impose expensive US-gas on the Europeans,” the German politician explained.
In his opinion, sanctions are counterproductive.
“In the most cases they lead to nothing and destroy trust between countries. So, I strongly agree with Milos Zeman to remove the harmful sanctions against Russia. It’s not in the interest of Germany or many other member states of the European Union,” Anton Friesen said.
At the same time, commenting on the information about potential meeting of Russian and American diplomats at the UN General Assembly in New York, the Bundestag deputy stressed the need for dialogue between the two countries.
“In my opinion, it’s always positive, if all parties talk with each other to solve problems. But one meeting alone would probably not lead to a turnaround in the relation between Russia and the United States. On the other hand, Lavrov and Pompeo are good negotiators. So, at least there is hope for an improvement,” the politician concluded.