Revised January 14, 2014
Frontline, “Putin’s Way”, PBS, January 13, 2015 (on Putin’s rise to power and the nature of the Russian dictatorship he leads).
Oliver Carroll, “Ukraine crisis: Fighting in Donetsk between army and Russian-backed rebels at highest level for months,” The Independent, January 12, 2015
The EU foreign office is reportedly working on a paper which discusses the option of lifting some sanctions against Russia in exchange for significant progress on implementation of the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014, leaving in place sanctions specifically aimed at the Crimea.
This is a hare-brained idea that would in effect accept the Russian invasion and “annexation” of the Crimea. It is just what one might expect from the socialist-dominated leadership of the European Union, and the foreign office now headed by Italian socialist Federica Mogherini, a protege of Italian socialist prime minister Matteo Renzi.
It now seems likely that the EU sanctions regime against Russia will begin to fall apart in March.
In the implementation of the EU foreign ministers decision of September 5, 2014, during what is usually a purely procedural matter where each country must sign off on the final text, Finland appears to have balked, and with others called for a reexamination of the decision in the light of “progress” made in implementing the Minsk Protocol of September 5.
Though the decision very nearly fell apart, it didn’t, and came into force when it was published in the Journal Officiel of the EU on September 12.
The events of that week were revealing, however.
The EU sanctions against Russia were not adopted to remain in force until lifted, but rather require a unanimous vote of all 28 member states to be renewed beyond their initial term of one year. Decisions to extend the sanctions will be coming up between March and September.
While setting up the sanctions in this manner may have seemed necessary to gain unanimous approval, it has turned out to be a huge strategic mistake.
Putin has made great inroads in dividing the countries of Europe on the issue of sanctions. At this juncture, absent extraordinary efforts by leaders of the West, it seems likely that the EU sanctions regime may begin to fall apart, beginning as early as March.
In the end, the pacifists and appeasers in Europe are likely to carry the day.
It will be extraordinarily important, if this occurs, for America to pick up the slack in the response of the West to Putin’s militarism and aggression in the Ukraine.
To do so, the Obama administration will have to overcome the lobbying by big business for the U.S. not to adopt any sanctions beyond those the E.U. has adopted, on the theory it would put U.S. businesses at a comparative disadvantage.
The U.S. does have powerful weapons at its disposal. For example, it could eliminate all access of Russian companies to even short-term financing (currently allowed up to 30 days), and could bar Russian entities from using the SWIFT system for the transfer of international funds and payments.
The U.S. should prepare to take these and other actions, while joining with European leaders such as Angela Merkel in calling for the sanctions–all of them–to be upheld and extended beginning in March.
The Trenchant Observer