Sector sanctions lite – An entirely pointless exercise

July 17, 2014

Writing this prior to any decisions from the European Council today relating to stage III sector sanctions, it will be a short post that will be either proven wrong and have a very limited shelf-life, or proven right with all the continuing disaster that will follow.

Expectations of any meaningful sector sanctions are extremely low, and the effects of any agreed new sanctions can be expected to be impotent.  They may strain even to be seen as symbolic.

So what to expect in any new form of flaccid European sanctions?

As stated in the above tweet, there will be no sanctions that will effect European nations greatly – if at all.  The sum of the EU parts simply does not provide the integrity to act in support of its purported values over and above the individual interests of its Member States – which is of course why EU foreign policy works at the very lowest common denominator consistently – when it works at all.

Thus any new sanctions will certainly not do anything to change the Kremlin course – which is the entire point of sanctions, and therefore any new sanctions will be an entirely pointless exercise.

Stage III sector sanctions such as financial systems and technology transfer etc. will once again be left alone.  Energy sanctions are completely off the table for obvious reasons.  The problem being, for any meaningful and course changing sanctions to be imposed on The Kremlin, it will cause pain within some or many European capitals too.  The Kremlin has called the EU Member States bluff and won – as it, and the EU Member States, knew it would.

But the EU and its Member States must be seen to do something – after all the international and regional rule of law and order has been directly challenged by The Kremlin and a response is required, no matter how lame or timid – even if such a lame and timid response makes the EU entity lose significant political capital globally – which it will.

So it leaves the need to find a space between the current and largely ineffective stage II sanctions all European nations can easily live with – as can The Kremlin – and the wholly unpalatable and undesired stage III sanctions in some European capitals – and The Kremlin, which would actually hurt and may have some effect.

Where to find stage II+, or stage III-lite? – which ever term you would prefer.  Something that can be said to have been done and is new, without acknowledging just how knowingly ineffective it will be and just how morally weak an institution the EU is when directly confronted and challenged.

The answer, it has to be expected, will lie with the suspension, or perhaps even severing, of joint EU-Russia programmes.  Perhaps an arms embargo too – effective immediately – but not retrospectively applied, to allow the French Mistral sales to complete.

In short, an entirely inappropriate and less than proportionate response is the likely outcome – again.  Until the response is proportionate to the raping of international and regional law, The Kremlin course will not change in Ukraine via sanctions imposed on it.  It will simply continue and probably go further.

As early as tomorrow, the USA is likely to leave the EU and its Member States behind and sanction unilaterally, being tired of waiting, and seemingly far more clear-eyed about the global repercussions.  Those global repercussions will force the USA to necessarily act to underpin the European regional rule of law – more so than the Europeans collectively are willing to do themselves.  Individually, there are quite a number of European nations who would have implemented stage III sanctions already had there been EU consensus.

Of course all written above may turn out to be pure bunkum, and the European Member States may actually step up the the plate in a meaningful way some time today and impose serious and painful stage III sanctions on Russia – but the fact that there is not only doubt, but an expectation that they won’t, is a particularly poor reflection on the inability of leaders to realise that in the long term, interests do not trump values – for values are their true interests.



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