New sanctions against Russia are counterproductive and will lead to a more aggressive Russian foreign policy
One must be very naive to believe it is coincidence health troubles of the so-called leader of the Russian opposition, Alexei Navalny started at the time when protests erupted in Belarus, and when Germany and Russia moved to a close their joint gas pipeline project, the North stream 2. Those sober enough can see a clear connection and predict the imposing of additional sanctions against Russia.
Even if he is portrayed as the leader of the Russian opposition, Navalny is no such man. The absence of large protests in Russia after his alleged poisoning should put that thought aside. It is the communists and nationalists who are the real opposition, the liberals can only gather the support of a few percent of the population. It makes no sense that the Russian state would target someone so insignificant and weak. Navalny is no threat. He might have been in the past, but those times have long passed.
As in the case of Skripals, we are being convinced by relentless Western reporting Russian secret services are so inept that they can’t kill their targets even with the deadliest of poisons. It seems Novichok is less lethal than Covid-19. Go figure. But jokes aside, isn’t it funny it was the Russian doctors in Omsk who first fought for Navalny’s life and succeded. They didn’t find any trace of poison. To make things even more strange and truly bizarre, Russian authorities then allowed the transfer of the victim to Germany. Would they do that if they really wanted to kill him? Wouldn’t they finish him off right there in Omsk? And if he were poisoned, wouldn’t they fight tooth and nail to keep him in Russia to prevent the truth from coming out?
And yet they let him go and after that, it was only a matter of time before Germans found out he was poisoned and first grumbling appeared that Germany should stop the North stream 2 project, something Americans have been urging them to do for quite a while. And yes, as always, sanctions would be back on the menu.
Threats and sanctions forced the Russian state to turn inwards and replace lots of things it got from the West. Agriculture is a good example. At the same time, it found new partners in the world, cementing its alliance with China. As a consequence, it became more resistant to outside shocks and new sanctions simply don’t have the bite anymore. There is a danger that in the end all ties will be broken which will lead to a truly aggressive Russian foreign policy. After all, what will Moscow have to lose? It will just protect its interests and not care about Western pressure anymore, as there will be nothing the West can pressure them with anyway. The annexation of Eastern Ukraine or merging with Belarus could follow. The West will have squandered all the available tools and no new sanctions will be imposed because all would have been imposed already. A military intervention? Highly doubtful in a world of nuclear weapons. Even the most arrogant politician in Washington or London will not risk nuclear obliteration.
In the past two decades, the Russian state mostly reacted to outside dangers. In 2008 it was the Georgian attack on South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In 2014 the crisis in Ukraine. In 2015 the rise of Islamists in Syria. Russians know full well they are limited in their options. They simply don’t have the resources and must fine-tune their actions and couple them with smart diplomacy. It has worked so far. The measured reaction to Turkish shooting down one of their planes and a lot of patience has led to a partnership between Moscow and Ankara after relations between Erdogan and the West broke down after the coup attempt. We can see the consequences in northern Syria and even in Libya. Yet, if the doors of diplomacy are shut tight between the West and Russia as a result of every increasing pressure in the form of threats and sanctions, we can expect a more active Russian foreign policy, primarily on its borders, where it has the most sway. Those who think they can bring Russia to its knees with sanctions and force them to adhere to their interests could in the end bring about the situation in which no more talk is possible and brute force will prevail.
We can see a similar pattern with China and Iran. Exaggerated threats, pressure, sanctions lead to ever more hostile reactions. In the case of China, this could lead to a terrible Cold war that will bankrupt the US and its allies and for which we will all pay a high price. There is no denying China is turning into a real economic behemoth and the Covid-19 crisis has only made them stronger. They are already growing at a fast pace, while Europe and the US are just recovering and in the latter case, it seems the recovery might turn out to be very slow.
Americans know full well their global hegemony is falling apart. Even while their cities burn in the heat of violent protests, they keep on pushing the boundaries of their empire and provoke their opponents. It goes as far as sending strategic bombers to practice strikes close to Russian borders. Spy planes are present close to China and Iran. They are still fully invested in color revolution projects as protests in Belarus show. Daily they are doing everything possible to deepen the ethnic, religious, and other divides inside China to put a dent on their growth and sow as much chaos as possible. Venezuela is still being strangled economically.
It might soon get even worse.
To win Washington must use its allies as cannon fodder. Europeans against Russia, Arabs against Iran, Indians against China, or some other willing ally against whom it might be of interest. There are many who are still susceptible to their relentless propaganda and will, when the time comes, loudly demand we all go to the Eastern front to fight, in the name of freedom and democracy, against the common enemy. Nobody will admit that the fight is all about maintaining the US empire.
The situation is dire and we should be aware of it. It is in our European interest to keep doors of diplomacy and economic cooperation open, be it with Russia, or Iran, or China. We can be a neutral power, avoid destabilization, increase our wellbeing, and live in peace. New sanctions, far fetched stories about evil Russian masterminds who can’t even kill heir opponents with the deadliest of poisons, threats, and moralizing will not lead to that.