The habit of hoping for the best is ineradicable in man. Were it not the case, it would be hard to explain the extremely nervous reaction by politicians, experts, journalists and the denizens of social networks to the traditional threats and reproaches of the U.S. State Department’s special representative for Ukraine negotiations. Some were extremely indignant at the words of the American official, while quite a few even got upset.
One would think that after three years of increasing sanctions pressure, if someone threatens us not with specific but rather some kind of abstract sanctions, we generally ought to take it as the rustling of last year’s foliage. But no: We still experience the same vague anxiety and begin again and again to worry about the future, which might suddenly turn back into an “economy in tatters” or even worse.
Kurt Volker isn’t, of course, the last man in America, but he’s also not one of the top ten significant people − maybe the top hundred. He has the right to bring up sanctions since the topic is related precisely to the sphere of his competence: The sanctions were imposed specifically over the conflict in Ukraine. Accordingly, his threats aren’t completely empty words. They depict a real, though also very distant, prospect. It would be strange to expect that some new step will be taken after the last sanctions law passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate and signed by the president. America has yet to set in motion the mechanism of the new sanctions packet, and it turns out that due to the opposition of European countries, doing so isn’t quite so simple.
In general, it would be worthwhile to kick the habit of nervously jumping and beginning to buck every time some high-ranking European or American official gets it into his head to come forward with the ritual accusations or promises to punish Russia for its mythical aggression against Ukraine. So Volker said there are Russian troops in Ukraine that must be withdrawn. It’s not like it’s the first time we’ve heard it. Haven’t such assertions become a banal figure of speech in the mouths of Western bureaucrats of every stripe and rank since the very beginning of the Ukrainian conflict?
So he accused Russia of “freezing” the aforementioned conflict since it’s advantageous for Russia, making the accusation in spite of an obvious fact: It’s Ukraine that flatly refuses to implement the political points of the Minsk Agreement. Haven’t France and Germany, our respected partners in the “Normandy format,” been repeating the same thing, one way or another? And hasn’t together with them a chorus of far more aggressive voices from countries less influential and less rich but prepared to blame Moscow for everything without exception?
Even if we imagine that Volker carries around some additional sanctions in his pocket and is capable of pulling them out if necessary, are there reasons to fear when an “economy in tatters” meagerly and shabbily continues to exist under sanctions and even exhibits modest growth, and international isolation hasn’t covered up Russia with a lead lid?
In Volker’s statements, there is one point of interest to the wearied observer. He adamantly linked Crimea and the Donbass with one another, explaining that only by Russia returning both territories to Ukraine would some kind of allowance be made. I think that here he came out as much more of a realist than his European colleagues, who sometimes prefer to forget about the annexation of the peninsula, focusing on the problem of the war in the Donbass.
Like the U.S. State Department representative, I’ve always been certain that Crimea and the Donbass are elements of a single political line, whose purpose is to protect Russian people living in Ukraine. The fact that in the one case it turned out one way and in the other case another says nothing about the greater or lesser support Moscow provided to the people who refused to submit to the illegal authorities in Kiev. In these different cases, it was just necessary to choose the formats of the assistance by realistically assessing the horizons of the possible.
But the fact that the Kremlin takes an uncompromising position on both Crimea and the Donbass, not retreating one millimeter from a policy of protecting “our own,” should instill in us pride and confidence. The Russian leadership won’t swap Russian people in need of help for sanctions relief. It has demonstrated time and again that it’s not prepared to compromise on this matter. It’s necessary to understand that sanctions can and most likely will be expanded. Will this lead to isolation and serious economic problems? Most likely not, but God only knows − maybe it will.
No big deal. I think that after the insane ‘90s of the past century, when by some miracle Russia survived, we’ve all been infected with total fearlessness. Survival at any cost is the objective of the simplest of organisms, and we who have lived through a genuine catastrophe should have miraculous insight: Life after betrayal, life at the price of betrayal, isn’t life at all but the wretched existence of a country with a broken, crippled will.
Hence, the word “sanctions” should call forth joy in us and fill our veins with strength, for when the enemy is indignant and threatening punishment, it means only one thing: We haven’t budged a single step from the occupied territory and our brothers are protected. May it be so!