For the United States and the now brainless Europe, initially the Russia-EU Summit in Sochi in March 2014 had been cancelled due to the Ukrainian crisis, but later, after the regular referendum which saw the peaceful annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol with over 4,000 votes, the relations between Russia and the West continued only at G7 level.
For the time being, however, Russia cannot join the OECD and the International Energy Agency, of which it had been a founding member as early as the USSR’s times.
Ironies of fate and memory.
146 Russian citizens and 37 federal “entities” cannot have relations with the European Union, enter the EU territory or do business within it and with anyone.
On March 10, 2016, the EU extended the measures which also regard the partial ban/restriction of oil trade but, above all, of technological materials for this purpose, until September 15, 2016.
Nevertheless the Minsk agreements reached in 2015 between President Poroshenko, France, Germany and Russia were clear: immediate and full “ceasefire” in Donetsk and Luhansk, the districts of pro-Russian “separatism”; pullout of all heavy weapons by both sides to equal distance; effective international monitoring of the forces’ separation lines; a significant constitutional reform in Ukraine, based on “decentralization” and hence on a substantial weakening of the pro-Russian insurgency.
All the Minsk II package of measures has been complied with – hence there is no lawful reason to keep on enforcing sanctions.
Therefore, precisely on the basis of the Russian signature of the “Minsk II” agreement, it was not possible and it is not possible today – without obvious Russian countermoves – to maintain or accept the sanctions against the Russian Federation, which also regard some oil and gas products – at least with reference to the EU.
Not to mention the severe banking and corporate bans, as if the issue were not the annexation of a territory which is Russian since the time of czar Peter The Great, but of a whole continent conquered by the Russian “fascism” (the usual word and concept fitting all contexts and circumstances).
Just to be brutally clear, with the Ukrainian issue – manipulated up to the almost comical EU recognition of the phantom “Tatar parliament”, composed from scratch of a largely minority population who had been deported by Stalin in 1944 – a naïve (albeit wicked, as often happens) attempt was made to turn a great power such as the Russian Federation into a ”marginal area” subjected to the geoeconomic wishes of the Western powers.
These powers, however, have neither the strength nor the ability, and not even the ecostrategic alliances to face and manage all the disputes with Russia.
Meanwhile, in April 2016, 55 French members of Parliament (as opposed to 44) voted to lift sanctions against Russia.
Moreover, it has been estimated that the cost for European farmers of the sanctions against Russia is equal to 5.5 billion euro a year in terms of lost business.
The Slovakian and Italian Ministers for Agriculture, the Austrian Vice-Chancellor, as well as Hungarian Prime Minister Orban, have all spoken against maintaining sanctions against the Russian Federation.
Moreover, Russia has been very clear: if the EU lifts all sanctions, Russia will follow suit and remove all its counter-sanctions.
If the situation goes on like that, with subsidies to farmers and new technologies again subsidized by the government, it is to be feared that, in the near future, the Russian Federation may achieve large food self-sufficiency and autonomy, thus leading to a huge crisis in the EU agrifood sector.
Just to put it in clearly brutal terms, the sanctions are tantamount to an unlawful restriction of international trade, absolutely illegal in terms of agreements already signed and implemented by Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine, leading to a pathological reduction of European trade, for no other reason and result than reducing the EU trade potential in view of the agreement and the current TTIP negotiations between the EU and the United States.
Russia is the third largest EU trading partner and Europe is the major commercial area for Russia.
As we have already seen, gas has been partially excluded from sanctions owing to many EU countries’ dependence on Russian natural gas, but not all Russian oil and gas products have been spared the sanction regime.
Banking operations are still banned, although there are some examples of “triangulation”.
Also meat exports are prohibited.
Thanks to the counter-sanctions devised and imposed by President Putin in March 2014, all EU trade with Russia fell down to 12.1% of Russia’s total trade, thus providing the opportunity – that a careful geopolitician such as the Kremlin leader has not missed – of a new economic correlation with China and the States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which, inter alia, are all growing significantly, unlike the European Union.
According to some Swiss analysts, the macroeconomic effects of sanctions against Russia are worth at least 43 billion euro in added value, and as many as 92, if sanctions were to continue in the coming years.
This is not a matter of crippling Russia, but rather of destroying Europe economically.
As a result of sanctions, over 1.1 million jobs have already been lost across Europe, while the EU GDP growth will decrease by 1.1% only due to the collapse of trade between the EU and Russia.
A huge folly, based on Russia’s full right to own the old naval bases of Sevastopol and the Russian Crimea, which has accepted the annexation as “autonomous region” by an overwhelming majority, confirmed by 57 observers from 41 countries, later disowned – and no one knows how and why – by the UN Secretary General.
The reduced interest payments are worth at least a loss of 10 billion euro, while Italy is losing at least 42% of its exports of materials for freight.
Not to mention the tourist sector (Russia ranks fourth in terms of international tourist flows to Italy) and the agribusiness sector (which fell by 16%) and, above all, the so-called Made in Italy, the primary asset of our country which has now fallen down to become one of the marginal budget items of bilateral trade.
And all this, once again, to justify a false, and often illegal version of the facts and situations which took place in the long “Donetz war” and the clash between the Ukrainian Maidan and the pro-Russian forces in the region.
Nevertheless only 147 billion euro worth of Russian debt are held abroad, with Italy as second largest creditor, with 27 billion euro, followed by Germany and Great Britain. The bungling supporters of sanctions had to know that there was no room for maneuver.
As a result of Russian counter-sanctions, the agrifood sector was hit to the tune of 43% of its potential across the EU, with Italy which had to monitor entire economic sectors (fruit and vegetables, meat, poultry).
Hence this is the geopolitical masterpiece of the moralist supporters of sanctions: the economy of a country such as the Russian Federation has been directed eastwards; a disaster hard to solve has been created in key economic sectors of the EU and Italian production systems. And everybody agrees on the fact that all this has been done without reaching any strategic result other than the smart, effective and strong presence of the Russian Federation in Syria.
What are the solutions which can be envisaged? First and foremost, even one single country, such as Italy – possibly with Austria and Hungary – should lift bilateral sanctions in the agribusiness and, at least, in the tourist sector.
Secondly, even one single group of EU countries should denounce the substantial groundless nature of the whole architecture between the Minsk I and Minsk II agreements, as well as create a sort of European-Russian bank for funding bilateral trade.
Thirdly, the UN and the other “inner sancta” of global power (and it is worth recalling that former Italian President Cossiga dismissed the UN as “a useless organization”) should be reminded of the fact that, from now on, the sanctions, counter-sanctions, their lifting and all the other multilateral and bilateral trade issues will be the prerogative of States and not of some strange and unreliable “experts”.
No one will deter Russia in the Baltic region
Recently researchers and analysts of the RAND Corporation issued the report “Exploring Requirements for Effective Deterrence of Interstate Aggression.”
The stated aim of this report is “to provide a fresh look at the subject in this context, with two primary purposes: to review established concepts about deterrence, and to provide a framework for evaluating the strength of deterrent relationships.” Chapter Four of the report is called “Deterring Russia in the Baltic Region” and presents analysis of security challenges in the Baltic States.
This particular report is interesting by the fact that it acknowledges the minimal likelihood of Russia’s military aggression in the Baltics. It is more than strange when take into account the previous report that insisted on high level probability of Russian aggression. This time experts consider the situation to be less dangerous for the Baltic Region.
According to the RAND Corporation analysts, Russia does not consider the Baltic States to be a strategically important region for itself.
Therefore, despite the Kremlin’s desire to change the balance of forces in Europe in its favor, Russia does not consider “aggressive actions in the Baltic States as a tool of achieving these goals.”
The US specialists have not found evidence of preparing the invasion of Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania, and Russia’s buildup of military power on their borders.
They have made a conclusion that a more aggressive behavior of Russia towards the Baltic countries can occur in case of the anti-missile defense systems deployment on their territory.
Instead, experts recommend that the US authorities treat Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with understanding and condescension and even take into account that their eternal anti-Russian fears are associated with difficult common historical past. In other words, they advise to rather provide moral support.
The report of the RAND Corporation cannot be treated only as a private opinion of a non-governmental organization. The findings of this center of expertise usually anticipate and justify strategic decisions made by the United States.
Thus, two years ago RAND Corporation held a war game, which revealed that the Russian armed forces need only about 60 hours to occupy the Baltic States, and NATO allies would not physically have time to help Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The analysis of the results of the war game was one of the rationales for deploying four multinational battalion-size battle groups on their territory.
Today, the RAND Corporation concludes that Russia does not threaten the Baltic States, and military tensions over this region can arise only if the missile defense systems are deployed. It follows logically that the further militarization of the Baltic States is explosive and undesirable.
So, the US elites as well as NATO do not want to deal with the Baltic States. They do not want to be distracted by countries that are of no importance for Russia, their main antagonist.
The first recommendation made by the analysts of the RAND Corporation in the report is “to assess the motives of potential aggressors and ease security concerns. In Europe, this could include avoiding deployment of the most provocative U.S. systems in or near Eastern Europe, thinning Russian and Baltic forces, and working on a successor to the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.”
In the case of military provocation in the Baltic Sea, similar to the one that occurred in the Kerch Strait, NATO, the US or the EU will not even provide the Baltic States with active diplomatic assistance, not to mention immediate military support. The RAND Corporation made this more than clear for the Baltic States.
Russian Aluminium, Health Ministry Announce Ebola Vaccine
Russian Aluminium (RUSAL), one of the world’s largest aluminium producers, together with the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, announced the completion of the vaccination against the Ebola virus in the Republic of Guinea. Two thousand people have received the GamEvac-Combi vaccines during the testing programme conducted at the Scientific Diagnostic Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology (SDCEM) in Guinea.
The centre was an initiative of Russian business tycoon, Oleg Deripaska, and was built by RUSAL during the height of the Ebola epidemic in 2015. GamEvac-Combi vaccine was created in the Gamalei Federal Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation. The vaccine is currently in the final round of testing.
“As part of the testing programme, the health of the vaccinated participants and the development of the immunity are monitored for one year. At the end of this period of monitoring, the vaccine will receive international certification making it available for use by the World Health Organisation and other organizations for the purpose of preventing the spread of the disease,” according to media release.
Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, instructed the development of the vaccine following a request from the President of the Republic of Guinea Alpha Condé at the end of 2014.
In 2016, the vaccine was revealed during the World Health Assembly where the former WHO Director-General, Margaret Chen, was in attendance. The vaccine was registered in Russia at the end of 2015.
Along with developing the vaccine, RUSAL, as part of the public-private partnership supported by Oleg Deripaska, opened a research centre, an isolation ward and a hospital in Guinea. RUSAL’s commitment to fighting the epidemic was acknowledged by the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, who thanked RUSAL’s shareholder, Oleg Deripaska, for his contribution to the international effort against Ebola.
The strong relationship that RUSAL has established with the Republic of Guinea is something that Oleg Deripaska often speaks about. He recently highlighted RUSAL’s commitment to helping the population of the country hit by the virus; “When the outbreak of the fever came, we made every effort to help”, said Oleg Deripaska.
“Currently the vaccine is administered to the Russian medics and other specialists going to the regions where there is a high risk of Ebola contagion”, said Veronika Skvortsova, the Minister of Health of the Russian Federation. “During the Ebola outbreak, the centre has shown the best results in terms of the number of Guinean persons wholly recovered: 62.5% of the SDCEM patients with a confirmed Ebola fever diagnosis have been successfully treated”.
The advantages of GamEvac-Combi vaccine
The vaccine was developed using a biotechnology method without using the pathogenic Ebola virus. The base of the vaccine is the genetic material of an adenovirus and vesicular canker virus, safe for humans, modified with a gene containing the information about the structure of the GP protein of the Ebola virus.
Pre-clinical and clinical studies have proven the safety of the vaccine and have shown that it stimulates the immune system more efficiently than foreign vaccines. Another important advantage of the vaccine is its more favourable transportation and storage conditions: GamEvac-Combi can be transported and stored at the temperature above -16◦C – and similar foreign vaccines require the temperature of less than – 60 ◦C for storage, which is difficult to implement in the hot African climate.
The SDCEM centre, that will continue to do medical examinations for the Guinean population, is the most advanced and biologically safe facility in the Western Africa. The centre was created in line with all international humanitarian organizations’ recommendations and is equipped with modern medical and laboratory equipment. RUSAL invested more than US$10 million in the construction of the SDCEM.
Currently, SDCEM is the leading centre in the field of investigating and preventing infectious diseases in Guinea. It also serves as the training facility for the national epidemiologists.
RUSAL has been active in Guinea since 2001 being one of the largest foreign investors in the country. In Guinea, RUSAL owns Kindia Bauxite Company (KBC) as well as the bauxite-alumina facility Friguia. RUSAL continues implementing projects to launch the world’s largest bauxite mines Dian-Dian in Boké region.
Putin, United Russia and the Message
On Dec. 8, Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the plenary meeting of the 18th United Russia party congress, reiterated the key challenges, problems and accomplishments for the nation. The congress delegates identified the challenges and priorities in the party’s work for the coming year.
Putin acknowledged the party’s support during his presidential election campaign, saying it was “a momentous thing shaping the top institution of power” in Russia. This concerns the president, the government, the region – any level, down to the local or municipal one.
Putin further referred to an action plan that was presented in a condensed form in the Executive Order in May 2018 and that set out in national projects drafted by the Government (the majority in the Government are United Russia members) and was supported by legislators (United Russia holds the majority in the State Duma). He pointed to the fact that there would not be any success without United Russia’s backing at the regional and municipal level.
“The United Russia party plays a special role. For a number of years the party has been showing its competence, its ability to make responsible decisions, explain these decisions to the people,” Putin told the party delegates during his address, while acknowledging frankly that there have been pitfalls and problems in the political leadership.
Leadership means making responsible decisions the country needs. This leadership is an enormous resource to achieve dynamic and substantive change that can ensure a radical improvement in the quality of life and greater well-being of the population.
Putin reminded the party meeting that the entire world going through a dramatic situation. In his words: “the world is undergoing a transformation, a very powerful and dynamically evolving transformation, and if we do not get our bearings, if we do not understand what we need to do and how, we may fall behind for good.”
He suggested that United Russia with its tremendous legislative, organisational and human resource potential must fully utilise it and consolidate all of society, in solving development issues, in implementing the nationwide agenda.
Putin told the party delegates never allow any sort of rudeness, arrogance, insolence towards people at any level – at the top level and the lowest, municipal level. This is important because it does the country a disservice, it is unfair to the people and it denigrates the party to the lowest of the low. The public demands fairness, honesty and openness.
What is “society” after all? It is the people. Thus, one key factor here is that people’s opinions and attitudes must necessarily be taken into account. There must be commitment to implementing people’s initiatives, and their initiatives must be used in attaining common goals, especially at the municipal level, according to the Russian leader.
The most crucial thing for a political party is a steady standing of its representatives and that United Russia does not have to fear change but rather work strategically towards making a change for the better.
Putin further asked the delegates to work relentlessly for a free democratic country, development of nationwide tasks, realisation of new ideas and approaches. Discussions and competition, including within the party itself are very efficient tools for solving problems in the interests of the nation. United Russia has to do everything needed to instil both inside the party in particular and in society in general this political culture, an atmosphere of dialogue, trust and cooperation with all political forces of Russia.
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