From Washington and Brussels With Even Tougher Love

Paul Goncharoff

Ostracism, as a political negotiating tool is increasingly todays answer in negotiating what some call politically aligned settlements, or the ‘inclusive’ world’s version of this millennium’s diplomacy. In short, it seems sanctions are necessary for fashionable progressive politicking. It is a pity that the main tool in international relations is pressure, not dialogue. It has no finesse and needs no professionalism.

Reminds me of my long-ago days in kindergarten when one child whose parents insisted he wear ‘appropriate’ clothes (tie, white shirt, lace up shoes and a jacket) was instantly isolated into a hell of ridicule and banned from the sandbox by his fellow brats. It either toughened the child up, or broke him, flip or fly; it has a lasting legacy effect.

The progressive political effect caused by Western sanctions against Crimea have similarly succeeded in touching on the well-known children’s camp ‘Artek’, which has always been internationally oriented. This fall a scandal broke out in EU’s Latvia, when they learned that a number of children who lived in those countries vacationed at Artek this past summer!

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of EU’s Latvia then demanded information from the camp of the names of the children (and their parents) who attended from Latvia. Is this the new standard of behavior a parent would wish to pass on to children in our pugnaciously Brave New World? The camp thankfully refused to comply with the Latvian ‘request’.

Since 1924, over more than nine decades of its existence, Artek has welcomed over 1.5 million children and teens from more than 150 countries. In 2016, they registered as a Russian legal entity headquartered in Crimea, in addition becoming a full member of the International Camping Fellowship (ICF). The camp/center is increasingly becoming an international destination. In the last three years, from 2014 to 2016, 1,118 children from 45 countries visited Artek, including Argentina, Austria, Bahrein, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Poland, Qatar, Serbia, Slovakia, United States, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the UAE.

The administration of the camp would like to see Artek ignored by these on-again-off-again political ‘blue plate specials’ as their sole concern is providing a rich, wonderful development experience to kids from any country. From the West’s viewpoint and with sanctions fever unabated, it will be tough for Artek. This is because since 2014 Russia has provided the camp funds with which they could finally organize, get transparent, upgrade, modernize, build and further expand programs and facilities which were largely ignored since the late 1980’s. This and the fact that they have the temerity to be located in Crimea are all the reasons apparently needed to feel the bite of sanctions.

The ‘constructive’ effects of the anti-Russian/Crimean sanctions can also be appreciated in the now ‘scandalous’ Siemens affair. Crimea has a resident population of roughly 2.5 million with several hundred thousand vacationers swelling that number over the summers. In 2015, Ukraine cut Crimea off from their electrical grid, and mainland water sources, no doubt with the kindest intentions and the bracing lessons ‘tough love’ might achieve. They did not win back any hearts or minds among Crimeans.The Russian company Technopromexport saw their way clear to supplying Crimea the needed gas turbines from a Russian company that built them (using Siemens Gas Turbines Technologies). This past January the 10th, the Moscow Arbitration Court considered and ruled on a lawsuit filed by Siemens demanding the return of those gas turbines delivered to the Crimea for their power plants. Furthermore, Siemens wanted the court to recognize the contract for their delivery as invalid. The arbitration court rejected these demands.

What is the ripple effect? For one, a precedent has been set in Russia, which shows that it is illegal to demand that Russian companies comply with US or EU sanctions within the territory of the Russian Federation. Throughout the course of this legal wrangle Siemens was attempting to ensure that Russian companies, and Russian courts, on Russian soil comply with the sanctions requirements of a foreign international organization – in this case the European Union – which would be direct interference with an independent sovereign government.

The above is the quick version, there is lots more detail to this story which is better researched independently on the internet should anyone have the time and wish to do so, but the key point I believe has been made.

Many Crimean’s with whom I spoke, are indifferently disposed to the sanctions that were imposed against them since they voted themselves part of Russia. They feel that self-determination voiced through their referendum to rejoin Russia is a human right, not something granted from afar. They are however quite angry with the European Union, who officially considers them still part of Ukraine, and despite vaunted ‘human values’ did nothing to support these people’s basic human rights when Ukraine cut off their electricity, and shut off water sources for both irrigation and drinking.

In 2015 when Ukraine cut off the electricity supply to Crimea, the peninsula received electricity from mobile power stations, generators and through quickly run electrical cables laid on the bottom of the sea from Russia. By early 2018, two new power plants should be up and running, after which Crimean’s will be able to meet their basic electricity needs, but only after several years of forced duress.

To put a cap on this continuing saga, on January 26, 2018 the Department of the US Treasury – Office for the Control of Foreign Assets (OFAC) – included in the new and improved Sanction List (SDN) three Russians who oversaw the supply of Siemens gas turbines to the Crimea. This is Deputy Energy Minister Andrew Tcherezov, Director of the Department for Operational Control and Management in the Electric Power Industry Eugene Grabchak , as well as the general director of Tekhnopromexport (who is developing power plants in the Crimea and supplies turbines) Serge Topor-Gilka. The list also includes Alexei Mordashov, who is a minority shareholder in the Siemens Gas Turbine Technology factory in Russia, the supplier of the four gas turbine units sent to Crimea.

Now the assets of these individuals in the US will be frozen, they also will not be able to conduct any business with the United States. I cannot imagine most people in the US, EU, Russia or anywhere else see this as a win-win dialogue that has been positively negotiated for the benefit of all peoples concerned. It is telling to all but the most occluded that when doing the right thing earns a person the honor of being sanctioned, or as was said in another time only 60 years ago – blacklisted. Time for this witch-hunting frenzy to reassess motivations and get on with the business of living life.

 

Paul Goncharoff © RussiaKnowledge,  January 27, 2018

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