EU Court upholds sanctions on Russian defense industry over Donbass

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January 26, 2017 – Fort Russ – 

Dmitry Radionov, Svobodnaya Pressa, translated by J. Arnoldski – 

On Wednesday, January 25th, the Court of the European Union upheld the legality of freezing Almaz-Antey’s assets between March 2015 and September 2016. This decision was made on one of the company’s two lawsuits over the legality of the individual sanctions in effect against the Russian enterprise since July 30th of 2014.

The decision of the European Court in regards to Russian state-owned arms corporation Almaz-Antey confirming sanctions against the enterprise is reasonably believed to be politicized. 

The general director of the corporation, Yana Novikova, is quoted by Interfax as saying: “Back in 2014, EU officials openly stated that the imposition of sanctions against the company is tied to the Malaysian Airlines catastrophe of July 17th, 2014, in the sky over Ukraine. In September 2016, the EU Council recognized at hearings in the general jurisdiction European Court that no link between Almaz-Antey and the destruction of the Malaysian Boeing has been established. Today’s decision in our lawsuit looks even more paradoxical.”

The enterprise head remarked that Almaz-Antey considers “the decision of the European Court to be political and not based on a legal evaluation of the circumstances of the case.”

The tribunal explained its decision in the following way: by producing the anti-aircraft weapons and in particular the ground-air rockets that were supplied by the Russian army and, in turn, the “Russian authorities to the separatists of Donbass”, Almaz-Antey contributed to destabilization and “threatened the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of Ukraine.”

The tribunal’s communique stated that no direct evidence that the weapons produced by the corporation were used by the [Donbass] militias is needed from the EU Council. In a military conflict, the tribunal says, it is already difficult to establish the liability and type of arms used by the conflicting sides. However, in the EU Court’s opinion, “the very presence of the risk that the organization is engaged in misconduct is sufficient reason for the decision to freeze its funds.”

The court’s decision not to lift the sanctions against the company can be appealed within two months.

Overall, the reason for the imposition of sanctions against the enterprise and a number of other Russian defense industry enterprises was Crimea’s reunification with Russia in March 2014 and the accusations that Russia is interfering in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

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As for Almaz-Antey in particular, sanctions were imposed on it in connection with the catastrophe of the Malaysian Airlines plane on July 27th, 2014 in the sky over Ukraine. The EU Council put the Russian company on its black list on July 31st, 2014. All of the assets of the entities on the black list in Europe are frozen. Almaz-Antey contested this decision by filing a claim in the general jurisdiction European Court on August 21st, 2015. In addition, the company has suffered as a result of the imposition of EU sanctions against specific Russian sectors which entered force on August 1st, 2014. Exporting military technologies and dual-use technologies to Russia was banned, which hurt the company’s work in particular. 

According to Pavel Rodkin, a member of the Zinovyev Club of Russia Today and a professor at the Higher School of Economics National Research Institute, “the EU Court’s decision takes care of several tasks at once: demonizing Russia, and creating a negative image of and establishing barriers against Almaz-Antey, which is one of European defense manufacturing’s competitors.” 

Rodkin elaborated: “In this case, the political situation is successfully superimposed on the task of weakening a competitor simultaneously on the economic, technological, political, and ideological levels. The EU Court’s decision is undeniably politicized, but this benefits and fully fits the West’s policy. One level reinforces the other.”

Can the court’s decision be considered a recognition of Russia’s participation in the Donbass conflict? Rodkin says: “Rather, this decision should be attributed to yet another anti-Russian move linked to a whole number of similar decisions and the legitimizing of the sanctions against Russia. The court’s decision in itself will hardly have serious consequences, but the cumulative effect of the media, political, judicial, etc. campaigns on shifting the blame and responsibility from Ukraine to Russia could hurt Russia’s interests.” 

Svobodnaya Press asked Rodkin: “Will Kiev use this court decision for new accusations against Russia? Will they be listened to in the West?” 

Rodkin replied: “The question is first and foremost whether the court’s decision will be used by the West itself to strengthen the sanctions and other aggressive political actions. Ukraine’s actions in this situation are significant only given the West’s approval. Otherwise, even the most-high profile charges from Ukraine will remain without consequences and will simply be ignored. On the one hand, Europe has accumulated a certain weariness of everything connected with Ukraine. There is no real support from Europe and none is expected. On the other hand, the globalist forces which were particularly strong in Europe under Obama would once again like an occasion to incite this conflict. This opens a mass of opportunities for conflict with Russia.”….

If Trump changes policy towards Russia, can we count on the success of an appeal? In Rodkin’s opinion, “Modern politics is built in such a way that economic cooperation can develop alongside sanctions. It is this course that has dominated and remains dominant in relations between Russia and the West. Therefore, the normalization of relations between the US and Russia which Trump might opt for does not mean the automatic lifting of sanctions in those areas which objectively benefit America itself. On the global arms market, Russia is a serious rival to the United States. Therefore, the obstacles created by the EU rather help American manufacturers.”….

Can this be considered an element of “hybrid war”? What else can be done against Russia’ military-industrial complex? Igor Shatrov, the deputy director of the National Institute for the Development of Contemporary Ideology, says: “Yes, it is. And if this ‘war’ continues, we can expect anything from the freezing of the foreign accounts of an even wider circle of Russian enterprises, even those only indirectly related to the defense industry, up to the abduction and arrest of Russian citizens abroad. But there is hope that the new American administration will not act with such clumsy methods. On the other hand, if new sanctions will be applied against Russian enterprises, this will only accelerate the abandonment of accounting in dollars with the customers of the Russian military-industrial complex. This would eventually only improve the economy.”  

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