The Spiral of Escalation

Brussels imposes new sanctions on Moscow, due to a loss of EU influence in favor of Russia.

BERLIN/BRUSSELS/MOSCOW (Own report) - The EU is escalating the conflict with Russia using new sanctions. Yesterday, Brussels imposed coercive measures against four Russian officials: They will be denied entry into the EU and possible assets within EU member states will be frozen. In a coordinated move, Washington also announced new sanctions, to demonstrate transatlantic unity in the power struggle with Moscow. While the EU - cloaking itself in a posture of alleged moral superiority - declares its aggression as a commitment to human rights, it is ratcheting up its actions, due to strategic considerations: Russia has been gaining significant influence in countries Berlin considers to be within the EU's immediate spheres of influence, such as Syria. The German government has also been unable to assert itself against Russia as the regulatory authority east of the EU within the framework of the "Minsk Process." To increase the pressure, Brussels is now using sanctions also to instigate protests around the Navalny case. Within the German elite "regime change" is explicitly mentioned.

The Next Round of Sanctions

Yesterday, the EU intensified its pressure on Moscow and imposed sanctions on four Russian officials: Alexander Bastrykin, Head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Igor Krasnov, the Prosecutor-General, Viktor Zolotov, Head of the National Guard, and Alexander Kalashnikov, Head of the Federal Prison Service. The EU accuses them of being responsible for "serious human rights violations," including "arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as widespread and systematic repression of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association," particularly in the case of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny and his followers.[1] The four officials will be denied entry into the EU and should they possess assets within an EU member country, these would be frozen. In addition, persons and entities in the EU are forbidden from making funds available to those listed, either directly or indirectly. The EU explicitly notes that, following a decision by its foreign ministers (February 22) it is applying for the first time its new sanctions regime adopted on December 7, 2020. This "Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime" is broadly defined, targeting actual or putative human rights violations of any kind.[2]

Transatlantic Coordination

Parallel to the imposition of the most recent EU sanctions, the United States has also announced new coercive measures against Russian officials - with the apparent intention of demonstrating a close transatlantic coordination against Moscow. Seven officials and 14 companies or institutions, accused of being in some way responsible for the government's handling of the Navalny case or implicated in his poisoning, are affected.[3] Brussels had already decided to impose sanctions back in October; Washington is now following suit. Noteworthy is that neither the EU nor the USA has provided evidence supporting their allegations that government officials had attempted to have Navalny murdered, reference is, at best, made to alleged intelligence information. For many years, this pattern has been the hallmark of the West's foreign policy of aggression - from the alleged "horseshoe plan" to expel the Albanian-speaking population of Kosovo to the alleged weapons of mass destruction of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Both were subsequently proven to be lies. However, for those in power in Germany and in the United States, these lies and the wars they helped to justify have remained without consequences.

No Regulatory Authority

Whereas the EU - cloaking itself in a posture of alleged moral superiority - pretends to be applying sanctions merely in the interests of human rights, their motivation is actually based on strategic considerations. On the one hand, over the past few years, Moscow has gained significant influence in several of the countries Berlin considers to be the EU's immediate spheres of influence - particularly Syria, but also Libya, as well as in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.[4] In the conflict in East Ukraine, on the other hand, the German government was unable, with the "Minsk Process" to assert itself against Russia as the regulatory authority to the east of the EU. "No significant progress had been achieved," admitted Chancellor 'Angela Merkel on February 19, during the online version of the Munich Security Conference. "That is why it is very important that we develop a common transatlantic agenda for Russia;" this should enhance pressure on Moscow.[5] Subsequent to the EU's sanctions imposed on Russia last fall,[6] the coercive measures imposed yesterday constitute a second concrete step. Other measures in the future are not to be ruled out, as long as Berlin has not reached its objective of rolling back Moscow's influence.

The "Generation Putin"

With the Navalny sanctions, Berlin, Brussels and Washington are primarily aiming to mobilize Russia's younger generation against their government in Moscow. Contrary to the western powers' repeated claims, Navalny is not very popular in Russia. In a survey conducted by the Levada Institute in January, only 19 percent of the population approve of Navalny's activities; while 56 percent explicitly reject them. A mere 5 percent admitted that they trust Navalny, with 64 percent judging President Vladimir Putin's activities as positive.[7] The Levada Institute's survey detected a largely sympathetic attitude toward pro-Navalny protests only within the "Generation Putin" - the 18 - 24 year old age group. In this age group 38 percent saw the pro-Navalny protests as positive, while 22 percent of the group explicitly rejected them. Navalny has "established a direct link to these young people through his social media channels" explains an employee of the Green-affiliated Heinrich Böll Foundation. Pertaining to the focus of western agitation, being applied to Russia's younger generation, Gabriel Felbermayr, President of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), recently announced "we want ... nothing less than regime change."[8]

Russia's Counter-Sanctions

As soon as the EU and the US announced their sanctions, Moscow immediately announced counter-measures. Brussels is evidently out "to defame the Russian leadership," accused the influential Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Federal Council of the Russian Federation, Konstantin Kosachev, "No doubt Russia will respond to it."[9] "We will respond without fail," confirms Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov following the US announcement of sanctions, and reminded that. "Reciprocity" - "one of the rules of diplomacy" - has not been annulled.[10] Already back in December, Moscow - as a counter-measure to the sanctions Brussels had imposed prior - had listed EU representatives, who are prohibited from entering Russia.[11] The spiral of escalation continues.


[1] Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime: EU sanctions four people responsible for serious human rights violations in Russia. 02.03.2021.

[2] See also The Global Judges (II).

[3] Biden administration accuses Russian intelligence of poisoning Navalny, and announces its first sanctions. 02.03.2021.

[4] See also The German-Russian Treasure and Powerless in the South Caucasus.

[5] See also "The Alliance is Back".

[6] See also The New Strategy toward Russia.

[7], [8] See also Colonial Methods.

[9] Russia to respond to EU's new sanctions over Navalny case, senior lawmaker says. 02.03.2021.

[10] Russia to respond to possible US sanctions over Navalny - Lavrov. 02.03.2021.

[11] Russia strikes back at EU over Navalny-fueled sanctions. 22.12.2020.