Staunton, September 29 – The sanctions law adopted by the US Congress in August and reluctantly signed by President Donald Trump gives “a fundamentally new character to US relations with Putin’s kleptocratic regime,” shaking it to its foundations and quite possibly leading to a serious deterioration in Russia’s relations with the West, Andrey Piontkovsky says.
That measure, the Russian analyst writes in a commentary for Radio Liberty, requires that US government financial experts identify “all the shares belonging to the top of the Russian ruling class beginning with Vladimir Putin and then publishing data on them” (svoboda.org/a/28760464.html).
This represents a sharp departure from past American practice with regard to Russia which until now has been willing to benefit from the more than a trillion US dollars invested in Western countries, Piontkovsky says. But Moscow’s desire to use this wealth to gain geopolitical power and recognition as “ruler of half the world” has gone too far.
The new US measure, he continues, is “not only a threat to the shares of ‘Putin’s friends;’ it represents the collapse of their entire way of life … This is present-day Western medicine which promises not only political but if you live even biological immortality, the education of children and grandchildren, property in the best resorts of the world” and so on.
In short, Piontkovsky argues, “a personal war has been declared against the hundred biggest thieves of the Russian Federation.” That means that “the former post-communist Russia” will no longer exist because that Russia “required the active and far from unselfish cooperation of Western elites.”
As a result, “both the Russian state and its relations with the West will be organized according to a different set of principles. Perhaps, these will be much worse; but there is no question, they will be different.” Russia’s wealthiest and most powerful are thus now in “a very difficult situation.”
“For the West, they are thieves, and some of them in addition are military criminals,” Piontkovsky says. “the path to the West and above all to its shares for them and their offspring from now on is closed. The fourth world war has been lost. There will not be any ‘Yalta,’ and they will never be accepted as real members of the bourgeoisie.”
As one can already see, he suggests, the first thing they will try is “hybrid capitulation, that is the ending of the hybrid world war, something the West might be prepared to accept as the Kremlin’s retreat and that could be sold to the Russian TV viewer as a victory of a Russia that has risen from its knees.”
But the US isn’t prepared to accept what Moscow has offered so far, the idea of UN peacekeepers in the Donbass. However, what is important to note, Piontkovsky says, is that Russian rhetoric has changed since the passage of the law, with the Kremlin not making the usual kind of threats it has made in the past.
Some in Moscow may hope that Washington will back down, but the provisions of the law and especially its 180-day time limit on publishing information on Russian holdings make that unlikely. And various proposals to help save Russia’s face in all this are unlikely to go anywhere either, Piontkovsky argues.
The top Russian businessmen and officials are soon going to recognize this and are going to demand action to defend their interests both at home and abroad. They may turn to Western courts to fight the American law, but given what their actions appear to be leading to in Russia itself, that possibility raises some even more interesting questions.
“Ever more thinking people of the most varied political views,” Piontkovsky says, “while looking at events [in Russia] are talking about a foretaste of civil war and the dividing up of the country, intentionally unleashed from above.” If that happens, then one needs to ask the following:
“What suits in which courts will the Kazan Imamate, the Rostov Peoples Republic, the St. Petersburg Orthodox Pahanate, or the Ulus Juchi in fact bring?”