Aleksandr Podrabinek: Amazing Sanctions

posted 9 May 2014, 09:52 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 9 May 2014, 10:11 ]
29 April 2014

Aleksandr Podrabinek


Seven more Russian officials are banned from travelling to the West and using Western banks and payment systems. Seventeen more Russian companies are to lose their American shares. What a severe blow against Russian expansionism! Obama is shaking from indignation, we are shaking from horror, and Putin is shaking - from laughter. And this is the ‘high price’ paid by Russia for the annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of the situation in Ukraine?

I am afraid that President Obama and his Western European colleagues either don’t understand at all what is going on between Russia and Ukraine, or, on the contrary, understand everything too well and are actually giving their support to Mr Putin. One variant is worse than the other.

Only very naïve people can fail to understand that the stakes in the game for world leadership that Putin is playing are far higher than the steps with which the West is responding. It seems that Western politicians are just not up to the mark. What is at issue is the hegemony of the Kremlin over all the territory of the former USSR, and in the future the creation of an effective pole of resistance to Western democracy.

From the moment he was elected president Vladimir Putin has not been shy in putting forward his plans. He called the collapse of the USSR the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. He said a unipolar world centred in the USA was impermissible. He talked of Eurasian perspectives and the search for a Russian national idea. All these years he has been talking about what he has now begun to do. It is strange that people did not pay due attention to this before, and thought all these sentiments were simply the empty fantasies of a small man drunk on power.

It was exactly the same in the last century when they failed to give due importance to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, published back in 1925, in which he set out plainly and in detail out the plans that he began to implement after 1933. And for a long time after this in the West, as in the East, they tried to negotiate with Hitler, sometimes reaching agreements, sacrificing countries and territories, dividing up Europe, traded, forgave loans and again traded. The USSR and USA supplied Germany directly or through intermediaries with metal ores, oil and other strategic raw materials until the very beginning of military action (June 1941 in the case of the USSR and December 1941 in the case of the USA).

In the same way today the West is committed whole heartedly to trading with Putin’s Russia, closing their eyes to the kind of monster they are feeding in the eastern hemisphere. Perhaps, the fate of Ukraine has been a wake-up call? It seems not.

It is hard to believe that leading Western politicians actually think their sanctions will be effective. All the more so since the press and political analysts are capably demonstrating the sanctions’ lack of impact. Senator McCain has already called on President Obama either to withdraw the threat of sanctions altogether, or to use them effectively. John McCain understands well with whom he is dealing, after all not for nothing did he spend five-and-a-half years in a communist concentration camp. That is the kind of school that is needed to know how to build the right relations with the Kremlin. It is something Obama lacks.

But, regrettable as this may be, something other than weak political training lies behind this failure. Obama, and along with him the majority of European politicians, are introducing sanctions against Russia unwillingly, against their own wishes, giving way to public opinion and the demands of those in opposition. They would probably be glad to kiss goodbye to Ukraine (as they have already kissed goodbye to Crimea), so long as Putin refrains from brandishing his strategic rockets or engaging in energy blackmail. However, Western society does not wish to see its own politicians shown up as weak and forced to make concessions. That is why the latter are obliged to at least imitate indignation and a readiness to take decisive steps, act as though they are ‘tough guys’, and from time to time issue declarations to the effect that they are about to introduce new and very severe sanctions. Probably, Vladimir Putin just laughs at all this, assuming correctly that the West is merely giving him one more time carte blanche to continue his policy of expansion and territorial claims.