The major Russian foreign policy news last week included new developments for anti-Russian sanctions, talks on settling the Syrian crisis, and publication of investigative reports as to the reasons behind the crash of Flight MH17 in Ukraine.
Erosion of anti-Russian sanctions regime in the EU
Last week, debates resumed on the long-term effects of anti-Russian economic sanctions. On Oct. 13, in response to a question posed by a representative of Siemens at an investment forum in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out that German companies will have limited possibilities to participate in major infrastructure projects in Russia (especially work on the new Moscow-Kazan railroad) as the current sanctions make it impossible to obtain credit resources.
“If participants of such projects will be limited in their access to European funding, then we will not have many options. And under such circumstances, the offers of our Chinese partners to participate in the funding can become crucial,” said Mr. Putin.
A few days before this, for the first time since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, some sanctions against Russia were lifted. On Oct. 9, the EU excluded rocket fuel from the list of prohibited goods in its trading with Russia. These substances are required to power Russian rocket engines that deliver European satellites for various EU space programs.
This was a tentative step towards the normalization of economic relations, designed to test the response of various forces within Europe and in the United States. It was especially significant that on Oct. 8, Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Commission, publically stated that the EU needed to normalize relations with Russia:
“We must make efforts towards a practical relationship with Russia. It is not easy, but that must be the case, we cannot go on like this,” he said at an event in the southern German city of Passau.
“We cannot have our relations with Russia be dictated by Washington.”
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The past week in Russian foreign policy was marked by a search for ways to resolve the Syrian crisis. Complicating matters, of course, was the tragic crash of the Russian passenger jet in Egypt. Whether there is any connection between these two events is still uncertain. World leaders have been cautious when it comes to talking about a possibility of a terrorist attack and apparently are ready to cooperate with the Russian side in finding out the answer.
Americans will not find it difficult to give up the feeling of chosenness and superiority in case the situation pushes them. The space for missionary-style democratization initiatives will sharply narrow in a post-ideological world guided by pragmatism. Mankind will stop perceiving democracy as a uniquely American feature.
We are truly glad to see Russia assert its rightful place in geopolitics after decades of other powers’ attempts to push it to the periphery. Zimbabweans have great sympathy for the Russian people, who like Zimbabweans are now suffering under the same kinds of sanctions that have and continue to hurt our economies. We are confident that such sanctions will not break the Russian spirit, as they have not Zimbabwe’s.
But things have not gone quite according to Putin’s plan. A number of Western politicians began talking about the need to boycott the Sochi Games – arguably over Russia’s “anti-gay propaganda” legislation – and indeed a number of VIPs have refused to go to the Olympics.