23 July 2022
by Aleksandr Podrabinek
When they should have demanded change, they made overtures. When they should have imposed economic sanctions, they sought to persuade and bargain. Now, when war has begun and the victim of aggression must be armed as a matter of urgency, they introduce sanctions, one package after another, each one more ludicrous than the other.
They have just adopted the seventh package: a ban on the import of Russian gold, personal sanctions against fifty of the Kremlin’s servitors and a freeze on the foreign assets of Sberbank. A bandage for a dead man! Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, boasts that the EU is sending Moscow a strong message.
“We will keep the pressure high for as long as it takes,” she wrote on her blog.
That’s right. And what else is there to say? You have to make the best of a bad job. Not claim as a victory the continuing purchase of Russian gas, titanium, coal, fertilizers – everything that the West needs so much! So this really is a very strong signal… of weakness.
A SHOW FOR THE VOTERS
The Kremlin no longer pays any attention to these sanctions. That time is passed. Today, the fate of Europe, and perhaps of the whole world, is being decided on the battlefield. Just how late can they be? I suspect the West will finally realize the need for full military support for Ukraine when it is too late. When the time will be counted in minutes, not months.
The plan to wear down the Russian economy is hardly likely to prove effective: the Kremlin will decide to use nuclear weapons before any possible effect from sanctions is felt. And there will never be any impact from the kind of sanctions that have already been imposed. They are cosmetic measures, pin pricks on an elephant.
The ‘high pressure’ about which Ursula von der Leyen talks is a performance put on for the voters, a charade, a European version of a Potemkin village. You can freeze the assets of Putin’s entourage, slightly restrict trade in secondary goods and impose eye-catching bans on everything connected with Russians abroad, but this will no longer have any impact on the Kremlin’s ability to wage war in Ukraine, and then in other countries. All the more because the West is in no hurry to cut off the most important source of the Kremlin’s sustenance.
Russia’s revenues from oil and gas exports may reach $260 billion by the end of 2022, according to a new study by the Norwegian consulting company Rystad Energy. That’s about $720 million a day. Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, gave a similar figure in comments broadcast by the French TV channel LCI. According to his calculations, Russia receives €800 million euros each day from the export of oil and gas.
FINANCING THE WAR
Meanwhile, since the start of the war, Ukraine has received about $4.5 billion from the United States and hardly more than that from the European Union. In any case, all the international financial aid Ukraine has received during the entire war is less than two weeks’ revenues received by Russia from the export of hydrocarbons. What kind of effective sanctions, capable of stopping the aggression, can we really be talking about?
Unfortunately, the international community is unable to understand how contemptuous the Russian government is of the values by which the entire civilized world lives. For a long time now, those in the Kremlin have had no interest in good relations with other countries, nor in economic cooperation, nor in the well-being of their own country, nor even in the lives of their own fellow citizens, let alone the lives of citizens of other countries. The Russian regime is intoxicated by the opportunities offered by the possession of nuclear weapons and it will use its military power for as long as it does not meet with adequate resistance.
Translated by Simon Cosgrove