The European Union has extended economic sanctions against Russia until January to keep pressure on Moscow over the conflict in eastern Ukraine, drawing a rebuke and a warning of retaliation from Russian officials. An EU statement released on Monday said the decision was taken without debate by the bloc’s foreign ministers at a meeting in Luxembourg, in response to “Russia’s destabilising role in eastern Ukraine”.
In February, ACEWA Founding Board Member and NYU and Princeton Professor Emeritus Stephen F. Cohen gave a lecture on the crisis in Ukraine and the state of US-Russian relations and the very real possibility of a new and even more dangerous Cold War between the two nations. Coming as it did in the days leading up to Minsk II it makes for relevant viewing today.
The theme of the 2015 St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) is “Time to act: shared paths to sustainability and growth”. But as Russia pushes through major economic upheavals and growing international isolation, President Vladimir Putin’s speech in the northern city on June 19 was conspicuously lacking a real action plan to re-energise the business environment.
It may be considered a singular success for Western statesmanship to have brought two old rivals for power and influence in Central Asia…The US, especially, missed opportunities to integrate both countries into a single world system, by rebuffing reforms of the International Monetary Fund that would have strengthened China’s decision-making influence, and by blocking Russia’s overtures for NATO membership. This led both countries to seek an alternative future in each other’s company.
The lobbying for arming Ukraine has been underway for several months, but the passage of time has not increased the quality of what passes for a debate on this topic. This is particularly lamentable because the parties involved (Ukraine, Russia, Moscow’s Donbas allies, the United States and the EU) could soon start down a road that leads to a deepening of the conflict.
Four months after the Minsk II accords, the Ukraine crisis continues to simmer, with occasional violent eruptions. The ceasefire in Donbass has not prevented some 1,000 people from losing their lives since February, adding to the previous fatality count of more than 5,000. Some of the heavy weapons that both sides should have pulled back from the line of contact are still positioned close to that line, and are active.
The U.S. Department of Defense reportedly has plans to place tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and other heavy weapons in the Baltic countries and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. It is easy to see what this is about. It is an attempt to send a signal—a warning, of sorts—to Russia amid the continued tensions that events in Ukraine have heightened.
Thousands of NATO troops are on the move this month in Poland and the Baltic states, practicing sea landings, air lifts and assaults. The massive maneuvers on NATO’s eastern flank that began in early June include the first-ever training by the new, rapid reaction “spearhead” force, and are NATO’s biggest defense boost since the Cold War.
Addressing the St. Petersburg Economic Forum on Friday June 19, the Russian President addressed the country’s economic prospects in face of the ongoing sanctions, saying “What I want to note, however, is that by the end of last year, as you know very well, people were predicting that we were in for a very deep crisis. This has not happened. We have stabilised the situation, absorbed the negative short-term fluctuations, and are now making our way forward confidently through this difficult patch.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is open to continuing economic co-operation with the West, despite sanctions imposed over the Ukraine crisis. Speaking at an economic forum in St Petersburg, he said Russia’s economy had adapted to the sanctions.