Published on 29 Jul 2014

More Russian sanctions – but will they hurt?

European Union ambassadors have been locked in talks this morning, taking their first formal collective look at Tier 3 economic sanctions.

Among the points of dispute still are the details of which products are covered by the ban, how long should the sanctions last, and how long until they are reviewed?

Should it be about three months or one year before the sanctions could potentially be lifted? What should trigger a relaxation of sanctions?

Not on the table for discussion: ending gas and oil imports to Europe. That would be unthinkable for those east European countries who are massively dependent on Russian energy – though those same countries are braced for Russia to squeeze the supply hose and mess with their supplies in retribution for the expected EU sanctions.

The EU is working on long-term efforts to immunise these countries from Russian pressure over energy supplies, but that will not be quick or easy. In the meanwhile it’s activated “reverse flow” emergency provision of energy to member countries, but that would mitigate, not obliterate, the effects of any Russian retaliation.

Somewhere in the “fiches” attached to European Commission documents sent to individual countries are highly confidential “impact assessments” for sanctions now under discussion. That will include an assessment for how badly the City might be hit by restrictions on Russian banks seeking capital.

We’re told that Germany is five times more exposed than the UK on hi-tech energy exports, France 10 times as exposed on defence contracts. No-one’s saying how exposed the UK might be. I hear the figure in the fiche may be put as a percentage of GDP rather than in cash.

Other areas of dispute are said to be on how the sanctions will be monitored. But the hope in Brussels is that the commission’s outline plan will be accepted very soon.

Will the new sanctions be effective? You can read one assessment of past EU sanctions efforts here.  Some believe that the action on individuals and cronies is a better bet and was what tipped the balance in Mayanmar, for instance, when sectoral economic sanctions had been applied for many years.

Those same crony sanctions are proving difficult to get through meetings of the 28, with individual countries challenging the grounds for acting on certain people (difficult to get past some EU lawyers perhaps too).

Though they may sound ephemeral, some old diplomatic hands think that Russia’s equivalent of the men in grey suits –  Armani-clad oligarchs – will only truly come in the door to tap President Putin on the shoulder and call for a change of tack if their own lives and those of their families are changed for the worse.

A relatively small shift in their companies’ accounts or the cost of borrowing won’t trigger the necessary reaction.

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16 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:

    Gary,

    Do you think NATO (you remember that gang – formed just for the Cold War, still going 25 years after it ended) will promise to withdraw from the East Europe it said it would never set foot in? Do you think Britain will promise not to send soldiers to Ukraine in support of pro-Washington Kiev Nazis? Do you think Cameron and co. (that includes the neocon nutcases on all sides of Parliament) will ever cut the marionette strings from Washington? Do you think British mainstream media will ever summon the guts to stop its evil farcical efforts to turn Putin into Goldstein?

    No, me neither.

  2. DavyBoy says:

    I have to wonder why Russia is vilified for sending weapons to the peoples republic of Donetsk and Lugansk when US and EU are openly supporting the fascist state of Ukraine. You may remember 2 or 3 months ago Ukraine’s military attack helicopters had the UN insignia emblazoned on the sides. The UN told them to remove their “logo” as they were not supporting such actions in Ukraine.
    Maybe we should then question where Ukraine got these weapons from, was in EU or US (personally I suspect the latter)
    What is good for one side can’t possible be bad for the other side…
    Oh dear I forgot the “other side” is America.
    Anyone who opposes America is a terrorist, and anyone who is a free-thinker is an enemy.
    When will that guy in the shite house realise that they can’t dictate to everyone…
    When will that guy “A rack of bananas” realise that America’s day are numbered. Soon the EU will turn its back on the “almighty dollar” even the billionaire Jim Rogers said we should all get out of the dollar rule or we will be dragged down with it.
    I think our blessed David Cameron should also get his neck out of bananas ass and jettison our reliance on the dollar…
    God bless America and all who sail in her… I hope their captains go down with the ship

  3. Allan says:

    When, if ever will the ‘Corporate Media’ start telling the truth about this conflict?

    Here is what Paul Craig Roberts said on informationclearinghouse on 27th April this year.

    No doubt this post will be censored.

    “The crisis in Ukraine originated with Washington’s overthrow of the elected democratic government and it’s replacement with Washington’s stooges. The stooges proceeded to act in word and deed against the former Russian territories that Soviet Communist Party leaders had attached to the Ukraine. The consequences of this foolish policy is agitation on the part of the Russian speaking populations to return to Russia. Crimea has already rejoined Russia, and eastern Ukraine and other parts of southern Ukraine are likely to follow.

    Instead of realizing it’s mistake, the Obama regime has encouraged the stooges Washington installed in Kiev to use violence against those in the Russian-speaking areas who are agitating for referendums so they can vote their return to Russia. The Obama regime has encouraged violence despite President Putin’s clear statement that the Russian military will not occupy Ukraine unless violence is used against the protesters.

    We can safely conclude that Washington does not listen when spoken to or Washington desires violence.”

    The article continues but there’s no room here.

    A lot of things have happened since April, none of which would have been necessary had not Washington continued to pursue it’s quest of World domination to protect the ever failing Dollar.

    Please, just for once, look beyond Washington’s version of events for your stories.

  4. Andrew Dundas says:

    The worry of sanctions probably works more effectively than the actuality. Because nobody knows how effective those potential sanctions will be, or for how long.
    In any case, capital continues to drain out of Russia as owners milk their businesses for cash they can export before the crash. Further sanctions on oil, gas and grain sales would speed the collapse of the Russian economy. Putin will know that, and hopes Europe & the US are bluffing.
    But is Merkel or Obama a bluffer?
    Time will tell what metal they’re made of.

  5. MFC says:

    This whole thing with Russia stinks. Neither I understand why our government seem to be so thirsty to engage in conflict with Russia nor I see that we have a excuse good enough for it.

    This business with the MH17 plane is rather shaky, at least in my eyes. It feels rather an amazing coincidence that two planes (that look very much the same) from the same airline are hit by disaster in ‘rather dubious’ circumstances, good enough to make a film out of it. Frankly, too much of a coincidence for me to believe that is really a coincidence. Specially when there are far too many unanswered questions regarding all this:
    1. even before a proper investigation had started, there was already massive amount of propaganda in the media to put the blame on Russia. Why?
    2. the bodies of the passengers in the scene were completely charred and dismembered, but the passports and other belongings seemed to be intact without a scratch! How is that even possible?
    3. There are suggestions in other sources that Ukraine could have requested the plane to fly lower than originally planned: this would put the plane right within the war zone. Why? Wouldn’t this point to the situation being staged to get the plane shot?
    4. Why was this plane flying over a war zone in the first place?

    Russia is not actively fighting in this conflict, it may be providing weapons to the rebels, but what about the UK? has it never supplied arms to other rebels and conflicts?

    If the outrage for the rebels looking for self determination is so huge among our government that justifies (for them, not for me) this sanctions to Russia, how about the situation in Israel? Shouldn’t we also be setting sanctions to Israel for the massacre that it is doing to the Palestinians? I do not see consistency here. Some are always bad others (no matter how much damage they do to others) are always good. Why? Who decides this?

    Russia is not fighting, but is the object of the sanctions. So, how about the powers that are supporting Israel? Shouldn’t they also be sanctioned?

    Sorry, but this whole thing stinks to war propaganda to me. Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and now Russia. Why is our government so insisting in starting conflicts? What do we have to win? How much we can loose?

  6. Allan Brown (Nelson Lancashire) says:

    It seems I’m not the only one who thinks the western media journalists are hogtied by their corporate bosses, who in turn are hogtied by Washington’s hawks. When is a respected journalist going to put his head above the parapet and tell the truth about what America is doing. Do we have to have a nuclear war with Russia before someone comes to their senses?

    The West claims that Ukraine’s elections were done at the point of a Russian gun, but at least the Russians stayed in their own country. We invaded both Iraq and Afghanistan then had the temerity to claim elections there were free and fair. Double standards, or what? All this backed up by our ‘free press’. What a laugh, our press is no more free than North Korea’s. Puppets of their owners and the American war machine.

    America wants a new cold war so that it can sell yet more arms to European nations. Of course, all these arms will have to be paid for in American Dollars which are printed in their trillions and are nothing more than paper with nothing to back them up only faith. That faith is fast diminishing and now Russia and China are looking to trade with BRIC countries in REAL currencies.

    We are heading for nuclear war. Tell the truth Channel 4 and you may just save the world.

    1. Andrew Dundas says:

      Hello Allan,
      We are NOT heading for any kind of nuclear war!

      Putin gains popular support in Russia because he claims that, by undermining the State of Ukraine, he’s somehow defending the interests of russians everywhere.

      The invasion of Afghanistan reflected the act of war in New York and that came from Afghanistan’s harbouring and supporting Al Qaeda.

  7. fleche_dor says:

    To answer the question posed at the top of the post. No.

    If the rumoured deal agreed in private negotiations between the German Bundeskanzlerin and Russian President transpire to be correct, then more sanctions will not work.

    Any sanctions will be very short-lived indeed. The individual economic self-interest of those countries seeking to impose them is too great.

    There have also been suggestions that certain UK political parties may even have a financial interest in preventing further escalation of the sanctions, despite all the public sabre rattling. Paty funding donations. …

  8. Allan Brown (Nelson Lancashire) says:

    Andrew,

    It seems my response to your email has proved my point about corporate media following the American line as my response was not published. I wonder if THIS will be?

    All I really said was that Al Qaeda was an American invention and doesn’t exist as an organisation, although the media continually says it does. The Americans just repeat the same ‘Black Propaganda’ often enough and eventually people start to believe it. I gave you links to prove my point but Channel 4 has refused to publish.

    Big brother is alive and well in the corporate media and the American government machine.

    Snowden is a hero.

    1. Andrew Dundas says:

      Hello Allan Brown,
      The Taliban and Al Qaeda – or organisations in Afghanistan that use those titles – certainly do exist. Neither is an invention of the USA.
      Al Qaeda has claimed credit for the aircraft attacks on New York, on Washington and Philadelphia that killed large numbers of people and injured many others. And it claims to have been based within the territory of Afghanistan when those attacks were planned and executed.
      The reason why the UK became involved in the actions in Afghanistan is because the UK is a founder of the North Atlantic Treaty wherein Article 5 requires signatories to accept that an attack on any Member State entitles that State to ask for assistance in dealing with that aggression. It is reported that 44 NATO States responded to the US request for assistance.
      They can’t all have been duped.

  9. Allan Brown (Nelson Lancashire) says:

    Andrew,

    I’ve written to the moderator to ask why my earlier response was not published. Meanwhile, lets see if this one is.

    Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=437mDid_t3w to see one hour long Italian video that is very rarely shown. (Never, so far as I’m aware in THIS country.) It’s about what REALLY happened on 9/11. Not the Black Propaganda the Americans would have you believe.

    You could also look here http://www.sustecweb.co.uk/ which is a newsletter from the British Green Party. Check ‘Current Issue’ and ‘The Ukraine Crisis and Vladimir Putin.’

    Perhaps it’s these links the moderator didn’t like previously.

    Will this be published? We’ll see.

  10. Bob says:

    I do not understand what this issue is about, but both Russia and Ukraine are Christian countries, could they not agree to a truce and then send their troops and tanks to drive the evil IS out of Northern Iraq?

    US airpower and troops from Russia and Ukraine, why not?

    To our everlasting shame we have failed to stop these IS and the dreadful things that have happened,

    Our leaders have failed to send enough help, it would not have been difficult or as a US General has said, would not have carried particular risks, why we have failed to help I cannot understand, but if anyone in the Kremlin or the Ukrainian capital reads this, you could send help

  11. Allan Brown (Nelson Lancashire) says:

    Bob,

    That’s a very naive response. Christianity or even Islamism has absolutely nothing to do with this. It’s all about control of borders and selling armaments. The USA needs constant arms sales to support it’s economy, so they have to have a ‘Bogeyman’ to scare people with.

    The USA has consistently tried to control the Middle East and was perfectly happy with Saddam Hussein in charge. How many innocent people died under his regime didn’t matter so long as the region was stable. Hussein then wanted to sell his oil in Euros instead of the Dollar and the USA could not allow that to happen. THAT and only THAT was the reason why we were forced to go to war against him.

    The USA conducted mock elections in Iraq to get the government that THEY wanted. It was never going to last and that’s why we have IS now.

    As for Ukraine, much the same. The USA imposed a Western leaning PM on Ukraine who immediately set about upsetting the Russians. That’s why we have the current situation there.

    Look here for absolute proof that the USA will even kill their own armed forces to get what they want. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRZSzdQuOqM

    Until the USA stops interfering in other countries, the world will NEVER be a safe place.

  12. Bob says:

    Hello Allan

    I am glad the US is getting involved, glad they got involved to stop the Nazis a generation ago, re religion, think those doing these evil acts are misled, deception is one hallmark of the enemy of mankind, ie Satan,

    the actions of the Muslim community now in condemming these people will be decisive in this

    I think IS will be gone fairly soon,
    armaments are a big problem. There is good and bad in all societies, not good or bad states

    think the carrot of EC membership stirred up problems in Ukraine, if you offer poor people modern hospitals etc, what does anyone think will happen,

    best wishes
    Bob

  13. A Shelton says:

    The big picture is: Ukraine is really valuable – the largest agricultural region in Europe – larger than France – once called the breadbasket of the Soviet Union with huge deposits of coal and iron. Everyone has tried to own it: Kieven Rus (Vikings) – Mongols – Lithuanians – Poles – Cossacks who where taken in by the Russian Empire – Austria Hungary – Lenin’s Bolsheviks – Stalin’s purges – Hitler’s Nazi’s deported millions to labour camps – famines and Soviets after WW 2 – Chernobyl.. 1991 saw an 90% independence vote and the USSR collapsed as a result. Collectivisation collapsed and big Western money is buying into cheap agriculture. The 50 million Ukrainians now want to run their own show but they inherited the failing Russian currency and joint infrastructure Russia doesn’t like independence as it has huge military in the Black Sea that it must have land access through Crimea. It’s the old story; if you have something of value someone is always prepared to take it from you and everyone wants what the Ukrainians have.

  14. Allan Brown (Nelson Lancashire) says:

    Once again free speech is being denied by the western media.

    I wrote this a couple of weeks ago to Channel 4 news but did not get any sort of response. Why?

    Dear Channel 4 News,

    What is the point of having blogs if free speech is consistently censored?

    I have written two comments on Gary Gibbons Ukraine blog which the moderator has failed to publish. There was nothing offensive in either post but they criticised the US government and the western media’s biased reporting of world events. They also contained links that proved my points but they don’t seem to be allowed either.

    What has happened to ‘Free Speech’ in this country?

    Why are programmes like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=437mDid_t3w never shown on UK television? And why are links to stories of American terrorism, like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRZSzdQuOqM not allowed to be published on your blogs?

    Big brother appears to be alive and well and living in the UK, USA and western media.

    I don’t suppose I’ll get an answer, or it will be a standard ‘Sorry you feel that way’ response, which of course will just prove my point.

    Allan Brown (In Nelson Lancashire)

    P.S. Will I now be branded as Al Qaeda, as everyone who criticises the American regime seems to be these days?

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