A group of EU politicians defies Washington-backed EU sanctions against Russia
Preface by Pam Barker | TLB staff writer
Ahead of a European Council decision on whether or not to renew sanctions against Russia on June 28th and 29th, twelve EU politicians from France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Malta have written an open letter, reprinted in Russia Today, calling for the lifting of various European sanctions, urged on by Washington, against Russia.
This in a post-2014 world where Washington conducted a coup on the legitimate government of Ukraine to effect regime change, and then blamed Russia for its ‘annexing’ of Crimea. The sanctions imposed by Washington on Russia were duly countered by crippling export bans on American and European goods.
The group led by French politician Rachida Dati of the centre-right argues that in the fight against terrorism, EU countries, both individually and collectively, are hampering their own security efforts by being cut off from high-level Russian intelligence operatives, especially in regard to ISIS.
Netanyahu, they note, is working in close co-operation with Russia regarding its own national security despite being an ally of Iran; the US itself only conducts economic sanctions against Russia and has not risked its own national security in the way Europe must.
Althought the thrust of the letter refers to the inadvisability of intelligence and security restrictions, the group references the bigger mistake it always was of having put both economic and political sanctions on Russia for the damage it has done to member countries.
Economic sanctions have indeed been a mistake. An article issued by the journal Foreign Affairs, put out by the Council on Foreign Relations no less, quotes a report by the Cato Institute and Center for a New American Security (CNAS) which claims that economic sanctions have been an outright failure across the board for both the US and Europe but especially Europe, and that it’s time to admit their failure.
Sanctions are estimated to have “cut growth by 0.3 percent of GDP in 2015″ across Europe. In Austria alone, the Austrian Institute of Economic Research estimates that “continuing sanctions could cost more than 92 billions euros ($104 billion) in expert revenue and more than 2.2 million jobs”. Germany also stands to lost close to 400,000 jobs, and Italy has lost 1.25 billion euros in exports since the sanctions began. Large loans made to Russian companies by various European banks are also estimated to be at risk.
These politicians are by no means alone in their call for the lifting of sanctions against Russia. Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s vice chancellor and economy minister, has done the same. In an excellent piece for Strategic Culture, Finian Cunningham writes that insisting on such sanctions, which are clearly having an enormous impact on European jobs and economies, puts in doubt the very legitimacy of the EU’s ‘institutional existence’:
At stake is not just a crisis in the economy, of which the anti-Russian sanctions are symptomatic. It is further manifesting in a political crisis that is challenging the very legitimacy of EU governments and the bloc’s institutional existence. The issue is not so much about merely trying to normalize EU-Russian relations. But rather more about preserving the EU from an existential public backlash against anti-democratic and discredited authorities.
Another argument for the Brexit campaign and all those others who are sympathetic to getting out of the EU?
Below is the open letter by the EU politicians.
The following is an open letter, sent to RT by Rachida Dati, a French politician and Member of the European Parliament, and undersigned by 12 European politicians, that explains why EU sanctions against Russia should be lifted.
In October 2014, a few months after EU sanctions had been decreed against Russia, we already thought that missing the Russian partner was a mistake both on the political (on the Syrian conflict) and the economical level (for our agriculture), and we would pay it dearly.
Today, more than two years after the implementation of these sanctions in reaction to the situation in Ukraine, the warning signals are still red.
In July 2014, the European sanctions were extended to personalities including some of the Russian intelligence, preventing them from getting a visa and travel to the European Union. Aleksandr Bortnikov, head of the Federal Security Service and Mikhail Fradkov, director of foreign intelligence services, are both concerned by the sanctions.
Let us recall that the United States has also imposed sanctions, mainly economic ones, to Russia, but that they never went as far as jeopardizing their security cooperation with the heads of the intelligence service. So, why are we putting so much efforts in this, at the expense of our own security?
These sanctions impact us twice, both on the French and on the European levels, as demonstrated by the suspension of the Cooperation Council on security issues since the Ukrainian crisis. This Council was bringing together the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Ministers of Defense from both French and Russian sides. These annual meetings have not taken place since October 2012 in Paris. And even if interactions do continue, lifting sanctions would allow full-scale exchanges.
Practically, this means that the heads of Russian intelligence would be able to get visas to the European Union so as to be able to directly meet and interact with their counterparts. In this field, trust is fundamental and visa bans clearly damage high-level cooperation and dialogue, as we need them to confront the threat we are facing.
How can we explain that these sanctions are in our own interest, the interest of the Europeans, when one knows the impact and possible consequences of breaking or weakening the exchange of information between two countries? The attacks in Paris and Brussels sadly reminded us that this cooperation is far from being optimal even within the EU. Russian citizens themselves have been hit hard by terrorism. If we continue to weaken our cooperation with Russia in this field, we are participating to put our citizens in danger.
Russia, thanks its positions in Syria, has access to valuable information on ISIS, which we would be wrong to turn away from, as the enemy we face is multifaceted and ever-evolving. If it is not thanks to passion, let it be thanks to reason that we cooperate with the Russian State, in order to exchange critical information on the positions and intentions of ISIS.
Then, we must learn to act responsibly, in a concrete way and be done with ideals that do not satisfy anyone. This realpolitik is no longer a choice, it is a duty imposed by the world around us. We may not agree on everything, we can sanction where it hurts, but there are goals and interests that require that we go beyond the desire to punish.
Take the example of Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has decided to strengthen its ties with Russia, to enhance its national security, even though Moscow is working closely with Iran, Israel’s most hostile and powerful enemy in the region. Without taking any country’s sides in the region, the Israeli decision shows that realpolitik – the Israelis’ security – goes beyond geopolitics. If Israel does it, why not us?
After two years of sanctions, we hence know the cost of division, and we are afraid it is immeasurably higher than that of cooperation with Russia. Besides, Russia also wants to help us. To those who doubt it, let us remind them that after the 13th November attacks, François Hollande and Vladimir Putin agreed to establish closer coordination between both countries’ armies on Syria.
European citizens would not understand if we deprive ourselves any longer of information that is able to ensure their safety and protect them from the horrors we have known Paris and Brussels recently. The geo-economic war taking place between Russia and the European Union must no longer stand in the fight against terrorism.
While the European Council must decide on 28th and 29th June on the renewal – or not – of sanctions against Russia, let us call together to revive security cooperation between those two major players of the international scene. More and more voices in Europe already call for a re-evaluation of sanctions and the lifting of sanctions applied to individuals, as showed by the French Senate’s vote on 8th June which called, with a wide majority, for a reassessment and even the lifting of the sanctions.
History will prove right those who find the political courage to make such a statement.
We, the undersigned:
Rachida DATI – PPE FRANCE (Parti Populaire Européan)
Françoise GROSSETETE – PPE FRANCE
Hermann WINKLER – PPE ALLEMAGNE
Alfred SANT – S&D MALTE (Socialistes & Démocrates)
Alain CADEC – PPE FRANCE
Franck PROUST – PPE FRANCE
Ivo VAJGL – ALDE SLOVENIE (Alliance des Libéraux et des Démocrates pour l’Europe)
Marc JOULAUD – PPE FRANCE
Stefano MAULLU – PPE ITALIE
Aldo PATRICIELLO – PPE ITALIE
Renaud MUSELIER – PPE FRANCE
Elisabetta GARDINI – PPE ITALIE
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About the contributor
Pam Barker is a TLB staff writer/analyst based in France. She has an extensive background in the educational systems of several countries at the college and university level as a teacher and administrator.