05.07.2014 | Halya Coynash

Or We’ll slap on more threats


Exactly one month ago, the leaders of the G7 gave Russia one month to stop facilitating violence in eastern Ukraine.  A month later the search is on for feel-good ways of getting out of keeping their word. 

On June 4, US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a joint statement saying no less than:

"We stand ready to intensify targeted sanctions and to consider significant additional restrictive measures to impose further costs on Russia should events so require.”

No less, and no more, since they appear to have considered such measures and found them to be uncomfortable..  On July 4, during telephone consultations, they were still apparently on the agenda, but the deadline was as elastic as ever: “The president and the chancellor agreed that the U.S. and Europe should take further coordinated measures to impose costs on Russia if it does not take steps toward deescalation in short order, the White House said.

Pressurizing Ukraine to extend a ceasefire which only it was observing, and to engage in ‘talks’ with the Kremlin’s favoured representatives have proven much more alluring. This pressure, especially from France and Germany, has been intense despite the fact that none of the four steps which the EU stated on June 27 needed to be taken by June 30 were met

One requirement was for the “release of hostages including all of the OSCE observers”.  Only the latter were released.  The hostage-taking has not abated.  On July 3 Father Tikhon, a Ukrainian Greek-Catholic priest and one of the coordinators of the Donetsk prayer marathon disappeared.  He has faced threats over recent months, is clearly regarded as an enemy element by the Kremlin-backed militants and we can only hope that he is being held hostage, not worse.

There are various ways of dealing with broken commitments and failure to do more than extend, rephrase or quietly dump warnings about sanctions cannot be considered in any other light.  One such method is to find reasons other than greed for not imposing sanctions, with ‘national interests’ the favoured option.

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt placed emphasis on a united approach, saying: “I don’t think it serves Ukraine’s interests and it certainly wouldn’t serve Americans’ interests to see a divergence between American and European approaches.”  

We are, it seems, to conclude that since “united we stand, divided we fall”, if they’re not united, Ukraine can fall, but they’ll do next to nothing.

Other reasons reported are much more dramatic, as the UK Standard’s headline indicates: ‘Ukraine sanctions could increase Kremlin-backed killings in London

London business chiefs have been warned that the capital is at risk from an “upsurge” in assassinations by Russian intelligence services if the Government tightens the sanctions imposed over the Ukrainian conflict. According to global affairs analyst Mark Galeotti, London has been “largely “immune” from Kremlin-backed attacks because prominent Moscow figures enjoyed living and investing here.  But he told London First, which represents City firms and other leading businesses, that the situation could change if economic sanctions undermined the city’s attractions for the Russian elite”.

It is quite possible that Galleotti was simply giving a sober assessment of likely implications, rather than advising against sanctions, as the article effectively suggests.

Similar arguments could certainly have been presented as justification for breaching the commitment given to Poland by Britain and France in 1939.  They were doubtless used by the large percentage of the French population who supported the Vichy collaboration regime.

Galleotti warned that the Kremlin might resort to violence against opponents as it is suspected to have done against Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.

Former FSB agent Alexei Lugovoy is suspected of having used radioactive polonium to murder Litvinenko in the centre of London in 2006.  Polonium, like the surface to air missiles used by the Kremlin-backed militants in Donbas to fell Ukrainian military helicopters, cannot be found on a supermarket shelf, and the chances of others in Russia’s security service not having helped to obtain the deadly substance are small.

In a book entitled “Blowing up Russia”, Litvinenko, himself a former FSB officer, had asserted that the FSB were behind a series of bombs to apartment blocks in 1999, and that the attacks had been used to justify the second war in Chechnya and help Vladimir Putin come to power.  Lugovoy, whom Russian refuses to extradite to Britain, is now a State Duma deputy whose latest plan is to have the FSB’s former name KGB reinstated.

Britain went silent over Litvinenko’s murder, clearly deciding that its ‘national interests’ lay in cultivating good relations with Russia and welcoming other rich and powerful Russians to establish a base in the UK.  The Standard newspaper where the article appeared is, incidentally, owned by the son of a Russian oligarch, Alexander Lebedev.

The one thing not questioned by the G7 and its member states is Russia’s direct involvement in the chaos and carnage in Donbas, nor its unacceptable methods of economic pressure.  They are currently silent on other ominous developments such as the increasing number of terrorist attacks in Ukraine, believed to also be the work of militants, and the tapping scandal in Poland.  Suspicion is widespread that Russia had a hand in the scandal which has seriously weakened a government vocal in calling for stronger measures to stop Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Such measures would be extremely easy to export to any European country, including the UK.  The safety from “Kremlin-backed killings in London” or service to any country’s national interests by not taking a stand now is self-evidently illusory. 

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