17 March, 19:00

Who dictates EU foreign policy?

Who dictates EU foreign policy?

All the necessary legislative procedures concerning the outcome of Sunday’s referendum in Crimea will be completed at the earliest possible time, Russian State Duma Vice Speaker and United Russia General Council Secretary Sergei Neverov said on Monday. 

"The number of people who came to polling stations and supported Crimea’s re-unification with Russia speaks for itself,” he noted in a statement posted on United Russia’s website. “It’s a reply to all those who attempted, throughout the past weeks, to prevent the residents of Crimea from determining their own destiny, their own future and the future of their children." Eric Kraus, Director at Principal Asset Management, believes Western policy has been shaped by a bunch of anti-Russian Baltic states, while the "senior countries" have been just dragging along.

Crimea joining Russia – is a done deal?

I would assume that it is a done deal. I don’t know exactly at what time it is going to be. When the West basically created the Kosovo precedent of a region of a sovereign country seeking independence and getting that independence under NATO bombings, Russia warned them that this would come back and bite them. And it has. So, Russia may take some time to integrate Crimea but it is part of Russia. It’s come back home and it is a done deal.

How will both Russia and Crimea benefit in case Crimea joins Russia?

I would assume that from the Crimean standpoint, their life under Ukrainian domination has been very unfortunate. The region has suffered from the general economic decay of Ukraine under both pro-Russian and pro-European governments. And Crimea has basically been taxed and non-invested in for the last 20 years.

So, the Crimeans are now very much afraid of the neo-fascist regime which has come to power in Ukraine. And I don’t use the terms neo-fascists lightly, it is not an insult. It is basically how some of the RightSector would describe itself. So, Crimeans feel they need protection from this very new anti-Russian regime. They are Russian and they wish to be reunited with the fatherland and I don’t believe that anyone can stop this.

What is the most challenging for the West in recognizing that Crimea joins Russia? Why the Crimean residents’ right for self-determination is doubted by the West?

Because the political system is dysfunctional in the West. The tail has been wagging the dog. Western policy has been made by the very anti-Russian Baltics, Sweden and Poland whereas the more, I would say, senior countries, in particular Italy and Germany have been dragged along. It became a game of power politics. It was cast as a winner-take-all situation, and Mr. Putin warned against that three months ago when he said this cannot be seen as a winner-take-all situation. What we need is a three-wing negotiation and quite amusingly today the Americans are suddenly demanding what Mr. Putin offered three months ago.

What kind of sanctions do you think the West might impose against Russia? They are having this meeting today.

Probably this is a face-saving exercise for all sides. They threatened, they blustered, they warned and it now comes to the point of doing something. Now to impose real sanctions, real economic sanctions would be economic hara-kiri from the European standpoint. The Americans could live with it. Countries like Italy or Germany would be thrown back into recession by cutting off financial and energy dealings with Russia. Obviously if they started freezing Russian sovereign assets, Russia would respond by freezing their assets and cutting off energy supplies. Within a couple of months European industry would simply grind to a halt. So, their hands are pretty much tied. They are going to for domestic political reasons have to create a sense of “we’ve been firm and manly with Russia” but I don’t believe they can do very much.

What about the UK?

The UK has done very well off of Russian financial flow. Some of the big city law firms now get more than 50% of their business from Russian businessmen fighting it out in the UK court system. There have been huge inflows of capital an the UK has stated clear, in part by accident that they will not support real financial sanctions against Russia. Once again you have the problem of politics. The leaders have to show that having warned, having built this all up they can’t actually now back down. So, they are going to have to find something safe saying that they will probably cease the assets of some people who don’t have any assets in the EU they will impose a couple of travel bans on people who probably did not intend to travel. But I don’t see very much else what they could do. I could be wrong. But if you follow the press today there seems to be something of a wind down in the intensity of the rhetoric. And people are belatedly beginning to admit, yes, perhaps, the Russians do have some interests in a country which neighbors them and has been basically part of historical Russia for the last thousand years.

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