Staunton, June 7 – Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Pankin says that Russia has always been under sanctions and always will be because it does not intend to reverse its annexation of Crimea. That is something the country must get used to rather than look forward to a time when the West will lift its restrictions on trade with Russia.
“Let us be realists,” he says. “The sanctions regime always existed, and it will remain forever.” The West imposed sanctions on the USSR because of its inclusion of the Baltic countries, and it is now doing so on the Russian Federation for its inclusion of Crimea. Moscow isn’t going to change and the West isn’t likely to either (tass.ru/politika/11585737).
“We aren’t going to ask” Western governments to lift the sanctions they have imposed, Pankin continues; but Moscow will continue to point out to interested parties like businesses and public activists that “these sanctions are harmful for them, perhaps to a lesser degree than to us “ but harmful to all involved.
At the same time, he says, sanctions have had a positive effect on the Russian economy, sparking “a health competition” among domestic producers. But the worst impact of sanctions may be ahead rather than in the past because there are a wide variety of possible restrictions that may be imposed and Moscow must be ready for all of them.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov in part echoes Pankin’s words. He says that the West imposed sanctions “without any specific goals” and called upon the US to work to get out of “’the vicious closed circle’ of limitations in its relations with Moscow.” For more than 90 years, the West has imposed sanctions on Russia without effect, and it needs to recognize this.
But officials and experts at a Duma hearing today adopted a more pessimistic position, Rosbalt journalist Elena Zemskova says. They “admitted that sanctions are forever and not all of them see that they have benefited the domestic economy.” Instead, some “openly have begun to acknowledge” just the reverse (rosbalt.ru/russia/2021/06/07/1905495.html).
The new Moscow line on sanctions is clearly intended to do three things. First, it is intended to shift the blame for any economic problems Russia does face onto the West. Second, it is designed to intensify anti-Western feelings in Russia and thus justify a continuation of Moscow’s hard line against Western countries.
And third and this is perhaps the most important point in these arguments, Pankin’s words and those of others who echo him are making an argument that may allow the Kremlin to escape any blame for the problems Russian face, suggesting that it isn’t current policies but Russia’s mere existence that is behind sanctions.