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Russia sanctions – VR sets a poor example

July 12, 2016

With western sanctions on both sides of the Atlantic regarding Russia set to continue into early 2017, where after a reader may rightly ponder the ability of the EU Member States to maintain solidarity (discounting specifically Crimean sanctions) in what will be a far more difficult political climate, Ukraine will be forced to try and up its diplomatic game among the EU nations in an effort to keep them in place.

It will be a tremendously difficult task in the absence of Minsk being fully implemented, or an exceptionally serious uptick in death, destruction and violence in the war involving ordnance and equipment subject to the Minsk agreements – or mass civilian casualties.

This will require some guile, deft diplomacy, and perhaps some pleading in certain capitols once 2017 arrives.

Ukraine therefore must lead by example and remain steadfast in its own relations with the Kremlin.  Ukrainian sanctions therefore cannot be seen to wobble, become an issue of unnecessary uncertainty, or be allowed to be seen to fall to a place far from the top of the domestic political agenda.   Ukrainian sanctions, no differently to western sanctions, once they were imposed are problematic in their removal unless achieving and/or having successfully protected the interests over which they were initiated in the first place.

Everybody understands the reciprocity issues, and everybody understands the difficulties of sanction removal once initiated.

It is therefore incumbent upon Ukraine to be seen to lead the way on sanctions towards Russia.  It cannot expect others to sanction, and continue those sanctions, if Ukraine becomes indecisive, actually wobbles, or is perceived to demote their value in any matters “political”.

The almost certain continuous Crimean sanctions aside, those sanctions instigated with regard to the occupied Donbas will be the first (albeit the only for the foreseeable future) to be removed – or collapse – within the circle of western powers.

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12th July saw sanctions proposals toward Russia submitted by President Poroshenko, backed National Security and Defence Council, and after due consideration by the appropriate Verkhovna Rada committee recommending the proposals be supported head to the parliamentary legislative floor – and fail to make the parliamentary agenda – twice.

The first Verkhovna Rada vote managed to attract 209 votes in favour.  The second, 215.  Neither vote coming anywhere near close to the 226 minimum requirement to put the matter upon the Verkhovna Rada agenda – let alone actually vote upon the substance of the Bill.

If the national politicians expect the Foreign Ministry and its civil servants within embassies and consuls located in currently sanctioning nations to have any hope of playing their part most effectively in international sanctions continence, then it is surely incumbent upon domestic parliamentarians to at the very least put this Bill on sanctions upon the debating and voting agenda of the Verkhovna Rada when it was submitted – whether they subsequently adopt it, amend it, or ultimately reject it in any vote to adopt it as legislation.

Perceptions and framing matter, thus it is a policy area that Ukraine simply has to be seen to lead and remain steadfast over to remain credible within other capitols.  To simply fail to put this Bill upon the national legislative agenda when at war with Russia, and simultaneously lobbying western capitols to maintain sanctions, is a matter that will have to be corrected – swiftly.

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