Popov: New US Sanctions Will Only Strengthen Putin and Russia

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On August 2nd, it became known that the US is going to impose a new package of sanctions on Russia. The sanctions document proposes to introduce new restrictive measures, including against Russian state debt. The bill itself, developed by a group of American Senators, provides for sanctions on Russian politicians and businessmen as well.

The pretext for these new sanctions is the “Skripal conspiracy” from March. The sanctions themselves are supposed to enter into force on August 22nd, although it should be noted that the sanctions are being imposed by the United States, first of all, despite the fact that the “Salisbury incident” involved a British double agent, was on UK soil and does not affect the US’ interests, and, secondly, no evidence whatsoever has been presented that might prove that Russia is guilty.

Moreover, the level of European support for the British version of the Salisbury incident has been on the decline. Reasonable questions are being asked about the feasibility of poisoning the Skripal father and daughter (both of whom, by the way, survived). For its part, the question should be raised to the authorities of the UK who have failed – once again – to ensure the safety of their citizens and guests. This is not the first case in which former Russian citizens have died on London’s watch under mysterious circumstances.

Why are accusations being sounded a priori against Russia, and not against the UK itself? It is obvious that the Western political field has lost all understanding of the rules of fair play. Its actions are increasingly reminiscent of the methods of the 20th century totalitarian regimes – for example, the staged arson of the Reichstag, which led to the trial of German and Bulgarian Communists and the establishment of a Nazi dictatorship.

Another pretext for imposing sanctions has been found in the allegations that Russia interfered in the election process in the United States. According to Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, the new sanctions will continue to operate until Russia stops cyber attacks on the US and changes its policy in Syria and Ukraine. The Senator vests direct responsibility for this in the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin.

The message could not be clearer or more cynical. The mythical Russian assassination attempt on the Skripals and alleged Russian interference in the US presidential elections are but pretext for zombified Western citizens. The real aim of the sanctions is to demonstrate the US’ intolerance for the foreign policy of President Putin. Nothing has changed since the days of Ancient Rome: the discontent of great powers is clothed in hypocritical and deceitful form.

However, even without the frank-cum-cynical recognition on the part of the American Senator, the real root cause of sanctions has not been a big secret to Russia or the rest of the world.

Russia is being punished for its sovereignty. Exactly 10 years ago, Russia defeated the vanguard of the West in Georgia. Now that the US has been weakened even more and Russia has gained strength, economic shocks are being dealt – with an eye to political consequences.

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It would be disingenuous to deny the impact of sanctions. It is no coincidence that Prime Minister Medvedev called the sanctions an “economic war’ against Russia. The value of the has dollar soared on the international exchange to the level of 68 rubles (on August 13, the dollar slightly decreased, but is likely to continue to grow). The news of the possible introduction of new US sanctions against Russia has brought down Russian companies’ stocks. The largest fall in stock prices has been recorded at Aeroflot ( -12,2%). The securities of VTB Bank have also sunk by 7.6%. Sberbank shares fell by 5.8% from yesterday’s closing rate. In addition, drops have been recorded by such Russian companies as “Mechel” – 5% “En+” – 4,3%, and “RUSAL” – 3,7%.

But the economy is just a tool of politics. Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea, i.e., countries that Washington does not like because of their independent policies, have been in a similar situation before.

It could even be said that the only countries in the world which bear sovereignty are the ones that the US sanctions. The rest are to greater or lesser extents vassals of or dependent on the United States. As in these countries, in Russia the US hopes to cause public discontent with the government and President Putin, as well as provoke a “riot of oligarchs” and upset the so-called elites.

The idea is certainly not stupid, and is a logical tactic. But it does not take into account the essence of the Russian mentality and peculiarities of Russia’s political system. I managed to conduct a mini-survey of several experts in economic and political spheres and received confirmation of their opinion: sanctions will not have a serious negative impact on the support of President Putin in Russian society. It is likely that they will even have the opposite effect: they will strengthen support for the head of the Russian state. Russians will unite around the current government in the face of an external threat.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. In my opinion, the sanctions could have a synergistic effect, that is, their consequences will affect many areas and sometimes in very unexpected ways. The economic losses that Russia will undoubtedly suffer will be offset by the strengthening of the Russian Armed Forces, and the military and security bloc as a whole within the Russian elite. The Russian ruling class sees that it is impossible to negotiate with the West and therefore it is necessary to strengthen the country’s defense.

Another virtually inevitable consequence is the strengthening of the non-Western vector of Russian foreign policy and foreign economic activity. Economic, military-technical and military-political cooperation will be strengthened with China and other countries deemed “wrong” from the point of view of the American “Ministry of Truth.”

Russia will not curtail its operations in Syria and, especially will not succumb to the blackmail of the American puppet-president of Ukraine, Poroshenko. On the contrary, Russia’s actions will become tougher. This is no longer a proposal – it is a confident forecast.

Public opinion in Russia is becoming more nationalistic (in the civil rather than ethnic sense of nationalism). Vladimir Putin is perceived by many, including elite circles, as too liberal and soft as a leader. He is expected to deliver harsher reactions to the interference of the US and the West in the internal affairs of Russia. Putin has repeatedly shown the ability to listen to the voice of society. Along with the strengthening of anti-American and anti-liberal (that is, anti-globalization) trends in Russian society, pressure on the ruling establishment in this direction will grow. This will be the final result of the new batch of sanctions.

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