June 20, 2015

Russia's “Black List” as a “Reasoning” of New Aggression

May 29 these year Moscow sent to the embassies of European countries the “black list” as the media called it, which includes 89 European politicians from 17 out of 28 member countries of the European Union who are denied entry to Russia. The largest number of representatives of the EU countries on the list are from Poland — 18 people. Next on the list are as follows: from the UK — 9 people, Estonia and Sweden — 8, Germany and Lithuania — 7, Latvia and Romania — 5, France, Denmark and the Czech Republic — 4, the Netherlands — 3, Belgium — 2, Spain — 2, Bulgaria — 1, Greece — 1 and Finland — 1 person.

These figures as such tell little in the context of the content and intensity of the hidden conflict between Russia and one or another European country or the European Union as a whole. At first glance, it seems that they only indirectly show, to put it mildly, Moscow's dissatisfaction with the EU and some of its member countries' position. But what is really behind this demarche of the Kremlin?

Let us try to understand, based on the preliminary assessment of the “black list” and the subsequent events.

Firstly, almost half of the people it includes (38 people!) are representatives of Poland and the Baltic countries, most affected by the aggressive Russian policy.

Secondly, most of the names belong to those European countries which have taken a clear and consistent position towards Russia, related to the hidden aggression and annexation of the Crimea, as well as the cynical “hybrid” aggression in the East of Ukraine and the occupation (together with the terrorist separatist forces of the so-called “LPR”/ “DPR”) of some areas of the Donbas. Moreover, these countries openly and convincingly criticize Moscow for its aggression against Ukraine, and reasonably demand the continuation, or even introduction of tougher sanctions at the forthcoming (June 25-26, 2015) EU Summit.

Thirdly, not mentioning citizens of certain countries also speaks volumes: on the Russian “black list” are completely absent representatives of political elites of Italy, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Cyprus, Ireland and Slovakia, showing their blatant restraint regarding the Kremlin's policy in Ukraine.

Fourthly, this list includes representatives of almost all parties and factions — the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, Socialists, the European People's Party, the party of the “Green”, the Conservatives and Nationalists. According to leading European experts and analysts, by its “black list” Russia has declared war on actually all significant political forces of modern Europe.

Head of the British Counter-Intelligence /MI5/ Andrew ParkerFormer Head of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS)/MI6) John SawersFifthly, the “black list” is the list of obviously not first persons from the leaderships of the EU and EU member states. The vast majority of them — are ex-s. Apart from some of the members of the European Parliament, both current and former, the list includes representatives of law enforcement agencies and special services (including non-public people, for example — the Head of the British Counter-Intelligence /MI5/ Andrew Parker, the former Head of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS)/MI6) John Sawers and representatives of business circles of EU member states. Most of the people whose names are on the list, especially from the countries of the former socialist camp, take it as a kind of badge of honor, with which “Russia marked” their political position.

As expected, at Federika Mogerini's office of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Russia's “black list” was called “willful and unreasonable” event, and the President of the European Parliament M. Schulz announced about taking measures against Russia in case it does not provide reasonable explanations. In response to the “black list” of European politicians, June 2, the European Parliament introduced its own restrictive measures against the Russian officials who are banned from entering EU countries (supported unanimously). According to M. Schulz, “...Russian authorities failed to ensure the transparency of their decisions in accordance with international law and obligations, and did not grant certain people with the right to defence and appeal.”

According to our estimates, the name list of the “black list” indicates that the current Russian regime not only does not attempt to reach any settlement or conciliation in its today's confrontation with the outside world, but also deliberately goes to escalation of the conflict, scandalously widening its scale and increasing rates in the de facto started war not only against Georgia, Ukraine and other former Soviet states, but now actually against the European Union.

The scandal with the Russian “black list” clearly fits into the overall context of the conflict between Russia and the European Union, which last year went beyond Ukraine and, in fact, got a deep systemic character. There are more and more signs of the conflict. For example, Russia's recent shameless proposal to the European Union — to replace the Agreement on Free Trade Area between Ukraine and the EU (to start on January 1, 2016) with the tripartite agreement (Russia, Ukraine and the EU). In May 2015, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on tougher EU sanctions against Russia in case of Moscow's failing to fulfill the Minsk Agreements (the document will be voted on in June). Besides, “Gazprom” has just half a month to reply to the European Commission's accusations concerning violation of the EU antitrust laws, and so on.

So it is hard to escape the following general conclusion: Moscow (read — V. Putin) is raising the stakes by targeting exacerbation and expansion of the conflict with the West, bringing it to a new and more threatening level.

Based on the above-mentioned, there arises a number of objective and reasoned difficult questions: the first — for what did the Kremlin made and publicized the “black list”?; second — why was it made public just before the Summit of the “Big Seven” (7-8 June, 2015, Brussels) and the EU Summit (25-26 June, 2015, Brussels), and did Putin know about the negative consequences of such a step?; third — what is Moscow aiming at by such provocative actions and what should we expect from Putin in the future?

Taking into consideration the development of the situation around the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, especially the transformation and expansion of the conflict in the relationship between Russia and the European Union, we will try to answer these questions, without claiming their finality and completeness. That is, we'll try to figure out what is behind this “black list” of Russia's? Political irresponsibility, cynical audacity or “arguments” for a new aggression?

Question One: what for did the Kremlin make and later publish the “black list”?

According to the experts of our Center, the “black list” of European representatives, compiled and subsequently made public by the Kremlin, is directed first of all against the leadership of the European Union and personally against the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

The matter is that the US President Barak Obama is busy with problems of Syria, Iraq (mainly due to the activation of the IS — “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”) and Iran (because of Iran's nuclear program). In fact, he avoided the settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict (including within the framework of the “Geneva format”), having placed it solely on Europe (under the “Norman format”, with the involvement of the heads of the leading countries of the EU /Germany and France) and hoping for its fairly rapid “settlement” following the example of the Russian-Georgian conflict in 2008 (the so-called “Medvedev-Sarkozy Agreement”).

Besides, B. Obama pursued another (hidden) purpose — to look from aside at the helplessness of the leading countries of the European Union, trying to “resolve” a new conflict in the post-Soviet space. He is sure that neither countries-leaders nor the EU as a whole will not solve this issue on their own (they do not have the political will and positive experience). Then again, the United States will come to the forefront (the main signal in this context is that today the United States does not object to its joining the negotiation process within the framework of the “Minsk dialogue” in the “Norman format”).

By the way, Moscow has agreed with this approach, as it believed that the European Union, due to certain reasons (including the experience of 2008 in Georgia) would be able to take a tough position toward Russia, and the Russian-Ukrainian crisis would be resolved without serious consequences for Russia, meeting its interests. But Moscow, and Putin himself had been unpleasantly surprised by the tough position of the EU and personally of German Chancellor A. Merkel and French President F. Hollande. Thus, the EU does not recognize the annexation of the Crimea and has imposed targeted sanctions against Russia, extending them to the sector ones with the start of Russia's aggression in the East of Ukraine. Russia's attempts to divide the European countries have actually failed, and already in June (at the EU Summit – June 25-26, or even at the meeting of Foreign Ministers of European countries — on June 22 in Luxembourg) a decision will be taken on the extension (or enhancing) of European Union's sanctions against the Russian Federation.

In this context, the “black list” of the Kremlin — is, on the one hand, nothing but a kind of V. Putin's personal revenge to A. Merkel and F. Hollande for their position. And on the other — a hinting B. Obama on an invitation for the bilateral dialogue on the distribution of spheres of influence — a sort of “second Yalta” and “second-Potsdam” which Putin seeks so much.

The second question is as follows: why was the “black list” of the Kremlin announced on the eve of the Summit of “Big Seven” (June, 7-8, 2015, Germany) and the EU Summit (25-26 June, 2015, Brussels)?

Publication of the Kremlin's “black list” on the eve of the “Big Seven” Summit (7-8 June, 2015, Germany) is Putin's purely political demarche to leaders of EU member states, as well as his reaction to the actual “humiliation” at him personally as a result of practical exclusion of Russia from the “Big Eight” because of Russia's aggression against Ukraine. Assessing on the eve of the Summit declarations and behavior of leaders of member countries of “Big Seven” because of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, V. Putin was already well aware that he should not hope for lifting of the international political and economic sanctions against Russia. He also understands that Russia's return into the “Big Eight” is not to be expected soon.

That is, perhaps, nearly the only consequence of such actions of the Kremlin, as the publication of the “black list” on the eve of the Summit of the “Big Seven” (7-8 June 2015), will be an extension /enhancement of international political and economic sanctions against Russia, including from Canada and Japan.

As for the next European Union Summit (June 25-26, 2015, Brussels), either at the EU Summit, or even at the meeting of Foreign Ministers of European countries (June 22, in Luxembourg) a decision will be taken on the extension (or enhancement) of sanctions of the European Union against the Russian Federation in order to make it fulfill the Minsk Agreements. V. Putin's counting on Greece is useless, since back in March 2015, the Prime Minister A. Tsipras told Merkel that in the question of fulfillment by the parties of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict of the Minsk Agreements, his country's position does not differ from that of the EU. Besides, later Russia will face another real threat, namely, in July 2015 the EU may extend for one year the sanctions against the Crimea, as well as against Russian companies that have their business there.

That is, in this case — a consequence of the publication of the Kremlin's “black list” before the EU Summit (25-26 June 2015) again will be continuing/enhancement of sanctions against Russia.

Thus, the negative consequences of publication of the Kremlin's “black list” on the eve of the Summits of the “Big Seven” (June 7-8, 2015) And the European Union (June 25-26, 2015) in any case, will be a continuation or even intensification of international political-economic sanctions against Russia. At this, V. Putin was aware of the negative consequences of the publication of the “black list” and deliberately went to it.

The third question: what is Putin aiming at by such provocative actions and what should we expect from him in the future?

The answer to this question, despite its cynicism, seems to be one and only: Putin desperately needs Western sanctions against Russia!

First of all, he needs the West's sanctions against Russia in order to:

To show the West (the EU, USA, and NATO) to the population of Russia in the form of an external enemy, seeking to destroy Russia. In such a way Putin suggests to unite the people around him, as a single leader of the country capable of protecting not only Russia but the whole “Russian world”;

to divert the population's attention from economic problems caused by the irrational management, focused on the primary sector of the economy and the mining nature of its production;

to maintain his ranking among the country's population and support to all his (unpopular included) decisions and actions both in foreign political (including diplomatic, military, political, military, security, information, and so on) and foreign-economic (including energy, military-economic, military-industrial, and so on) and in the domestic political (including socio-political, religious, ethnic, and so on) and domestic economic (including socio-economic, financial) spheres of activity;

to prove the feasibility of, and in some cases — the need to use military force (and in certain circumstances — nuclear weapons) against other countries or coalitions to defend and protect “national security and national interests of Russia”, including outside the country — on territories of other countries.

But it's all on a global scale — including in the future and, most likely, in the nearest future.

Today, V. Putin desperately needs “strong arguments” to “ground” before the international community, and before the Russian people his next/new (not excluding —on large scale) aggressive force actions against Ukraine.

And how could it be otherwise? Ukraine is not making any concessions to Russia, and the West has been and will be supporting it financially and economically, and though imposing of sanctions against Russia. In such a situation, the West in the nearest future may introduce new sanctions against Russia in the financial and energy sectors of international relations that will lead to irreversible consequences.

And now Putin is really starting to get nervous. Or rather — he is afraid that he will not have time to maintain his “reputation”. That he will not have time to go down in history as the “collector of Russian territories,” as the “father-protector of the Russian-speaking population in the post-Soviet space” and “the chief architect of the “Russian world”. He is in a hurry; otherwise, he will be “thrown away” by either the Russian people or his environment. Really, he has too much “annoyed” including many from his closest circle. At the same time V. Putin is well aware that the unpredictable Russia has long and rightly been famous for its treacherous “palace coups”.

Thus, Putin is in a hurry. Then there is an occasion — the West does not cancel the sanctions, but vice versa — it extends them by the results or even on the eve of the Summit of the European Union. That is to say, “... while Putin was sitting and waiting, even hoping, a decision was made — to extend sanctions against Russia!” So what awaits him in the future? He has an “excuse” now for the West: “I was sitting there not bothering Ukraine too much, I was hoping that I will be understood and the sanctions will be cancelled or at least eased a bit. But you have extended them. I now have only one way out — to destroy Ukraine! Anyway, you will not defend it, like you did not defend Georgia”.

But at this, he, as always, is dissembling and lying, lying and playing hanky-panky: V. Putin really desperately needed (and will be need in the future), these Western sanctions against Russia as a “strong argument” for “reasonableness” and “justification” of his next/new aggressive military actions against Ukraine!

That is, this way V. Putin gets the so much needed one and only way to “justify” the new/next aggressive force (not excluding — large-scale) actions against Ukraine!" And then there “appears” the plan to capture the Left-Bank Ukraine to the Dnieper, detailed in the document “Report on the use of the grouping of special task forces “North” in a special operation”, classified “top secret” and in the “Explanatory note to the Plan” (with all necessary attributes).

And at the end of our study there arises another specific question: if V. Putin has “no other way out, but to carry out new aggressive military actions against Ukraine”, when should it be expected?

The most difficult is to predict exactly when Putin decides to put new power blow to Ukraine. But, in our opinion, such a large group of the United Russian-Separatist forces in Ukraine can be being built up exactly for the specific purpose of escalation.

Possibly Putin is now waiting for the right moment, including in the terms of geopolitics, in order to move into the depth of the territory of Ukraine. For example, very significant was the date of the attack of the Russian separatist forces at Mariupol (January 24, 2015), the eve of Parliamentary elections in Greece (25 January), in which the victory was celebrated by the “left” forces of SYRIZA party.

It is possible that a convenient moment for V. Putin would be the final stage of negotiations on Iran's nuclear program, which have been scheduled for June 30, 2015, and in which Russia takes part too. In case of successful negotiations, Iran must give up uranium enrichment in return for the lifting of sanctions imposed on it (including the oil and gas sector). Since the Kremlin is a full participant in these talks, it may take a moment to begin offensive operations in Ukraine. Of course, in such a difficult moment neither the European Union nor the United States will be able to actually take any additional measures against Russia.

One more date is being considered — 22 June. But I don't want even comment on it, because it would be the top of cynicism. But we must not exclude the possibility of Russia's strategic provocations on that day.

In any case, Putin will wait for the most suitable moment when the European Union and the United States are least likely to introduce or tighten sanctions.

So, the Kremlin's “black list” indicates that the current Russian regime not only does not attempt to reach any settlement or conciliation in its today's confrontation with the outside world, but also deliberately goes to escalation of the conflict, scandalously widening its scale and increasing rates in the de facto started war not only against Georgia, Ukraine and other former Soviet states, but now actually against the European Union.

In fact, Putin is provocatively raising the stakes in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict by targeting exacerbation and expansion of it to the countries of the West, thus bringing it to a new and more threatening level. Among other things, the “black list” of European representatives is directed against the EU leadership, and personally against German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande as a kind of Putin's revenge for their position.

Consequences of the publication of the Kremlin's “black list” on the eve of the Summits of the “Big Seven” (June 7-8, 2015) and the European Union (June 25-26, 2015) in any case, will be a continuation or even intensification of international political- economic sanctions against Russia. Absurd as it might seem, but V. Putin really desperately needs (and will need in the future) these Western sanctions against Russia as a “strong argument” for “reasonableness” and “justification” of his next/new aggressive military actions against Ukraine.

As for the timing of aggression against Ukraine, Putin will wait for the most suitable moment, including in geopolitical terms, when he can for sure capture large territories of Ukraine. This can be when the European Union and the United States are least likely to prolong or intensify the sanctions against Russia.