The decision of the European Union to introduce anti-Russian sanctions because of the situation with Alexey Navalny adds toxicity to relations between Moscow and Brussels, and the restrictions themselves can do more harm than good to the interests of the West, says Samuel Ramani, a political scientist, journalist and researcher at Oxford University.
“I think that these sanctions are dictated by symbolism, they are a symbolic act, because Western governments want to present themselves as if they are taking a tough stance against Russia to satisfy domestic interests. In addition, Europe is demonstrating that it can become a leader in the confrontation with Russia, as the confidence in the U.S. power is waning,” Ramani told the media.
However, he said there is a risk that the new radical measures introduced by the EU, including sanctions against six Russian officials, could do more harm than good for the interests of the West.
For example, says Ramani, imposing sanctions in the absence of an official investigation by the OPCW gives the impression that Western countries are taking revenge on Russia because of anti-Russian biases or a desire to limit Moscow’s power.
“This narrative undermines the credibility of any future investigation and adds toxicity to relations between Russia and the West. The introduction of sanctions without investigation gives the impression that the policy of Western sanctions against Russia is determined by internal political pressure rather than empirical evidence,” says the political scientist.
He also pointed out that sanctions can cause deep divisions in the West.
“Representatives of foreign and security policy in the EU and the US may have a common position on sanctions against Russia, but leaders individually do not. Trump, for example, avoids this issue, which means that sanctions are imposed by Europe, not the US, as was often the case in the past. In addition, there are different risks in European countries. Germany could lose Nord Stream 2 and have serious energy supply problems, while France’s continued dialogue with Russia on issues such as the situation in Libya and cybersecurity means that it will be less affected. If the consequences fall disproportionately on Germany rather than on France or the US, Western countries could face a conflict on this issue,” adds Ramani.
The expert also pointed out that sanctions damage the spirit of cooperation that could develop as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ramani recalled that the UN had called on international players to refrain from unilateral sanctions.
“Although these sanctions are applied at an elite level, the consequences for EU-Russia relations will have economic costs for ordinary Russians as well as some Europeans. The European Union, which insists on imposing sanctions on Russian officials in violation of UN recommendations, is a huge PR success for Russia, China and non-Western countries, which will deepen the civilizational gap,” the political scientist noted.
He expressed confidence that the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Latin America would mainly take Russia’s side in this matter or remain silent, while sanctions would only be supported within Western countries.
On Thursday, the European Union and the UK implemented a decision on sanctions against six Russians and a scientific institute in connection with the situation with Alexey Navalny. Before that, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia would mirror the European Union’s sanctions on the situation with blogger Alexei Navalny. The Council of Federation also promised a mirror response to the sanctions because of the “Navalny case”.
Translation by Christelle Néant for The Hague Times