Will Merkel finally give up on anti-Russian sanctions?

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October 20, 2016 – 

By Eduard Popov for Fort Russ – translated by J. Arnoldski – 

On October 19th, the deputy foreign minister of Russia, Sergey Ryabkov, spoke at a session of the State Duma. His participation in the parliamentary meeting was urged by discussion on weapons-grade plutonium, whose waste management has been suspended by Russia, but Ryabkov also elaborated on the possibility of new sanctions being introduced against Russia over Syria. These sanctions are being simultaneously prepared by the US and the EU.

According to Ryabkov, the American sanctions list now includes 281 legal entities from Russia and 81 representatives from all branches of government (including senior officials).

On October 20th and 21st, German Chancellor Angela Merkel intends to speak at a meeting of the European Council to call for the EU to tighten sanctions against Russia over Syria.

As we have written earlier, it will be difficult for the German chancellor to justify to European countries the need to introduce new anti-Russian sanctions. On October 17th, Federica Mogherini, who is responsible for the EU’s foreign affairs, stated at a meeting of EU foreign ministers that “sanctions against Russia have not been proposed by a single member country.” It is possible that EU member countries perceive the anti-Russian sanctions policy as the personal affair of Germany or, more precisely (an important caveat!), the personal affair of Merkel. Such an opinion is held, for example, by Dr. Josef Skala, the vice chairman of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia. 

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Dr. Skala told the author of these lines in an interview of the existence of the so-called “chancellor pact” concluded by the US’ occupation authorities and the first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Konrad Adenauer, in 1949. The existence of this document, which has already ceased to be perceived as a mere conspiratorial speculation by some marginal political forces, completely explains Mrs. Merkel’s intrigues. Dr. Skala explains Angela Merkel’s migration policies, which are anti-German and anti-European in their consequences, as a result of this “agreement.” The same reason could explain Madame Merkel’s high responsiveness to Washington’s anti-Russian sanctions initiatives. 

In this situation, the suffering side is German business, which has suffered significant losses due to the sanctions regime insofar as Germany was Russia’s main trade partner (along with China) before the imposition of sanctions. The series of defeats of Angela Merkel’s CDU party in federal region elections are mainly due to her and her party’s migration policy. The dissatisfaction of the German business community and its protests against the federal government’s sanctions policy are, at first glance, much less noticeable. However they can have far reaching consequences which, although hardly noticeable from the outside, could lead to systemic changes within. The observable differences between the CDU and CSU and the growth of the electoral popularity of Alternative for Germany could lead to the emergence of a major opponent to Merkel’s policies from the right, not to mention the “internal” opposition within Madame Chancellor’s own CDU ranks….

Angela Merkel is an experienced and highly sophisticated politician who is well aware of the risks of certain steps. Merkel’s problem, it appears, is not so much incompetence but her dependence on the US. Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems to me that Angela Merkel, at least in some cases, seeks to preserve a minimum independence and merely follows the path of simulation. 

In my opinion, the prospects of broad anti-Russian sanctions 2.0 do not look very realistic overall. If no major provocation or (God forbid!) direct confrontation between Russia and the US happens on the Syrian front, then the unofficial EU leader, Angela Merkel, will merely pretend to impose a new sanctions regime. 

As for Russia, the extension of the sanctions regime is by and large profitable, since its pros outweigh the cons. 

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