Sanctions don’t live forever

March 20, 2015 5:21 AM (UTC+8)

 

Sanctions aren’t forever.

Jennifer Rene “Jen” Psaki, the U.S. State Department’s official spokesperson (and soon to be White House communications director) will wrestle with this fact of life when she’s forced to publicly explain NATO’s shifting posture on sanctions against Russia. And the inimitably vociferous Psaki may well find herself tongue-tied when she comments on NATO’s very nuanced posture on this point.

The bulk of the EU’s sanctions against Russia that were imposed at the start of the Ukraine crisis expire in late July. If the U.S. had its way, it would extend them indefinitely. But to extend or to expand them, a unanimous vote is a must. That won’t happen.

Among the rolls of Magritte-style Kafkacrats stationed in NATO’s Brussels HQ there are, incredibly as it may seem, a few adults.

We’re not talking about the hysterical Baltics – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania – plus Poland; this is the no-nuance “evil Russia” gang, and they are starting to get on the nerves of many a Kafkacrat.

Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Bulgaria, for their part, wisely try to balance their EU and NATO membership with their need to get Russian investment and most of all, secure and cheap, energy.

Germany, France and Italy are all engaged in serious, interlocked political/economic interactions with Russia. It took a while. But they finally woke up to the fact that in the sanctions dance, the big loser may be the EU.

German business/industrialists want business with Russia, and Germany is a key consumer of Russian energy.

And then there’s Greece.

Everyone remembers how in late January Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Moscow would help Athens if asked. Greece gets natural gas from who else?  Russia.

Watch the timing. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in May. That’s roughly one month before Greece’s bailout extension comes to an end.

And roughly one month before the EU summit that will debate  the possible end of sanctions on Russia.

And don’ forget Beijing.

China reserves itself the luxury – via the upcoming BRICS bank – of eventually offering key economic help to Greece, as it is already offering to selected African nations, and is about to offer to Venezuela.

Caracas, for instance, will get a $10 billion loan in the next few months. Half of it will be part of the Joint Chinese-Venezuelan Fund. The other half will go to Chinese companies involved in the development of Venezuelan oil fields.

So plan B for Greece remains: the “R” and “C” in BRICS.

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