The signing by the U.S. President Donald Trump of the new “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act,” which provides for the introduction of additional restrictions against Russia, Northern Korea and Iran, and a separate part of which is dedicated to supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, is the step many in Ukraine have been awaiting since the first day of Russian aggression. The move actually affects Russia's interests, and, more importantly, it strikes the direct organizers of a bloody massacre in the east of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.
We should also wait a bit until the U.S. financial intelligence collects the necessary materials (according to this law, it is to be done within 180 days) and submits proposals on "freezing" the assets in the West of Putin’s entire "camarilla" and, maybe his personal assets, too. Then, I believe, the situation will change dramatically, and we will see a certain turn in Russia’s policies. Or, if this does not happen, the process of Russia’s decline will accelerate significantly. I do not see any other options here.
The restrictions imposed by the new sanctions act actually deprive the Russian Federation of even the slightest chance of returning to "business as usual"
With the signing of this act, Russians have lost the last bits of hope they had left for Trump, and now they realize that they have no chance of changing to positive the American president's position. Therefore, the Russian leadership will now make statements similar to those voiced yesterday (August 2) by the Kremlin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, who said they have been expecting it anyway and nothing new happened.
But there is actually something "new," and it’s very serious. Russia will now have to make a decision. That’s because the sanctions imposed by the new act actually deprive the Russian Federation of even the slightest chance of returning to "business as usual." And it will be hit very painfully the key sectors of the Russian economy, namely, the oil and gas industry.
Officially, the European Union has declared that it would pursue a policy of reducing energy dependence on Russia, but, on the other hand, real steps are being taken to increase this dependence in the interest of several large businesses in Germany, Austria, France, UK, and the Netherlands
Russian rhetoric is mainly aimed at the domestic Russian consumer. "We will bury them" is the Kremlin’s traditional approach. Russian authorities will be telling their people: "Please, brace yourselves, for our enemies are encroaching on us from all directions." Therefore, in this sense, there will be nothing new, indeed. Meanwhile, the economic effect of international sanctions will be increasing.
In this situation, the reaction of Europeans to new American sanctions against Russia is not very clear. Their position is surprising due to one simple thing: officially, the European Union has declared that it would pursue a policy of reducing energy dependence on Russia, but, on the other hand, real steps are being taken to increase this dependence in the interest of several large businesses in Germany, Austria, France, UK, and the Netherlands (meaning the notorious Nord Stream-2 project). Therefore, I don’t quite understand what position prevails in the European Union – whether it’s a healthy political agenda or a banal business interest of some, albeit large, companies in the oil and gas industry. It seems to me that Western politicians should not become hostages of the short-sighted interests of certain firms, but rather think of strategic issues that they themselves promote. Such a position is one of the consequences of corruption in the gas sector that Russia has successfully exported to the West. And the West should fight this corruption rather than just pointing at the fact that corruption erodes Ukraine (which it does, overwhelmingly).
Volodymyr Ohryzko is a head of the Russian Research Center, former Foreign Minister of Ukraine