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.”
Could Russia and the West cooperate in the fight against ISIS?
Russia’s military campaign against ISIS has strengthened Moscow’s influence with the Syrian government. Russia is planning to use this influence to start a dialogue between the Syrian authorities and opposition groups.
Continue reading at Russia Direct
In general, the new bill should not be seen as something out of the ordinary. Republicans, even when they were the minority in the Senate, used to lobby tough resolutions against Russia. Today the Republicans set the agenda in both Houses, and this fact is to be taken into consideration by Obama.
The Paris terrorist attacks and the downing of a Russian civilian airliner over Egypt have shaken the world. The attacks, both coming within the space of a month, also affected the international agenda, providing more opportunities for Russia and the West finally to build a broad anti-terrorist coalition. While those two tragic events dominated headlines, there were other important Russian foreign policy developments in November, including new developments on the Ukrainian crisis.
The causes of this division lie deep in history. Independent Ukraine has existed within its present borders only for the past 22 years. The state was formed by the Bolsheviks from different cultural parts. Some had been ruled previously by Russia and others, mostly in the West, had been part of Poland for centuries. The people of these regions have completely different perceptions of national identity and history.
Russia is ready to soften the food embargo, to finance major projects in Greece and participate in privatization. Experts, however, believe that the gradual normalization of relations with Brussels is more to the advantage of Moscow than an open split in the EU.