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Lately, Russian foreign policy leader Sergei Lavrov has hinted several times that the Kremlin is ready to suspend “any business” with European countries, because of the disrespect that was shown to Russia in relation to Navalniy poisoning by the words of EU officials. What was it? And how to understand the next drunken dances of the Russian bear?
Lavrov threatens Europe
The matter concerns the statements of the Russian Federation Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at the discussion of the fresh Russian think tank Valdai Discussion Club report.
Due to the closed and limited internal political sphere, Russia is experiencing a serious and protracted crisis of analytical thought. This is why, the most interesting part of the Valdai report presentation was Sergey Lavrov’s message addressed to his European partners.
Lavrov has recalled the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen statement on Russia. She said that “it is important to leave the illusion that Russia, under the current leadership, will be able to restore the status of the EU’s geopolitical partner.”
This angered Lavrov so much that he promised to “stop looking at these assessments”. In his opinion, not only “business as usual”, praised by Europeans, but also “business” with Europe as such, is in question.
Of course, we are well aware that this message was not addressed to von der Leyen herself, but to those commercial partners of Russia who could influence her. For example, the top-management of the French oil giant “Total” or the German gas traders who earn huge revenues from the sale of Russian hydrocarbons. Lavrov seems to be saying to them: “We are offended and we can go bad.”
Some days ago, 27 foreign ministers of the EU countries supported the imposition of sanctions against Russian and Belarusian officials, including Alexander Lukashenko. This was stated by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.
As for the Kremlin, it could suffer because of the suspicion of the poisoning of Alexei Navalniy. This fact has become the reason for the Russian Foreign Minister’s offense.
Simonyan and other microphone stands
Sergei Lavrov has repeated his threats to EU countries during an interview he gave to three journalists from Russian radio stations, including head of RT Margarita Simonyan, who is reasonably suspected of being closely associated with the FSB of the Russian Federation.
According to Lavrov, the Europeans are again “inciting this Russophobia” by accusing the Kremlin of involvement in the use of a chemical warfare agent against an opposition politician. Lavrov considers a flagrant violation of international law the fact that the Kremlin is not involved in a criminal investigation that suspects it of committing a crime.
The same story was around the MH17 downing, when the main suspect wanted to join the investigation team.
In a nearly two-hour conversation with Simonyan and her colleagues, the issue of compliance with international norms was practically the main one. If we omit all the subtleties and details, then Simonyan repeatedly suggested that Lavrov should not give a damn about international norms, and he tried to convince her that this should not be done.
For example, Simonyan suggested “to send troops to Donbass – to restore order. Openly…”, in response to EU sanctions. To which Lavrov replied that “we are polite people” (recalling the old meme of, so called, “green men” in Crimea in 2014). Apparently, this should have meant that in principle he agreed, but the semblance of decency still needs to be left.
Lavrov has also criticized his German colleague Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister. It is difficult to find a European politician more loyal to Russian crimes than Maas. However, even he recently suggested that Russian-European relations remain in a protracted crisis due to the inadequacy of the Kremlin foreign policy and human rights violation. Nevertheless, in his opinion, it is necessary to strive for a reasonable level of cooperation with Moscow.
In response to this, Lavrov said that questions regarding “reasonable behavior” should be asked, just, the German side. After all, according to him, a number of German political experts and think tanks representatives believe that the eastern policy of Berlin and Brussels requires renewal.
Former German foreign minister Steinmeier’s plans aimed at renewing and moderating productive relations with the Kremlin, have failed. And Russia has turned from a strategic partner into an enemy.
At the same time, Lavrov praised the head of the EU’s foreign policy service, Josep Borrell, for recognizing the importance of Russia in addressing many foreign policy issues. However, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the problem is that even Mr. Borell and his colleagues are unable to cope with the “attack of the Russophobic minority.”
“We tried to behave ourselves,” Lavrov says. – “And representatives of the West are meeting with the opposition in Russia and Belarus. This is an interference in internal affairs”.
This seems to be the reason why Lavrov is determined to “act without looking back.” (In other words, implement Russian policies with disregard of EU view on this). After all, as Margarita Simonyan said, sanctions are being imposed on Russia “regardless of its behavior.” So, there is no reason to limit yourself. “If a fight is inevitable, hit first,” as another Simonyan’s colleague put it.
In other words, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry is threatening other countries with the fact that the official Kremlin will refuse to comply with international norms openly and will no longer hide behind “green men.”
The possibility of a public refusal to comply with international law is an extremely serious signal, even taking into account the fact that Lavrov emphasized that this should not be done. However, you and I understand very well that the questions of the Kremlin-controlled journalists were formulated specifically to introduce this aspect of the discussion into the information space.
And, nevertheless, it is absolutely clear that Lavrov is showing off for the Europeans. In other words, he declares his readiness to commit reckless and aggressive acts, not being able to do so. All the indignation both on the part of journalists and on the part of the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry is nothing more than a props and an attempt to raise the stakes in correspondence with European partners.
Why so aggressive?
Back in early September, after the poisoning of Navalny, it became clear that the agreements between Berlin and the Kremlin on the Nord Stream 2 issues could not be fulfilled due to many objective circumstances, including the lawsuits of Polish environmental activists and the US sanctions against sea vessels, which built a gas pipeline. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The Germans turned a blind eye to the political murders of Litvinenko, Berezovsky, Khangoshvili, Nemtsov, Politkovskaya, the attempt on the Skripals, and much more. Berlin would most likely endure an attempt to poison Navalny. However, the circumstances were not in favor of German-Russian friendship for money.
A week ago, the Polish antitrust regulator UOKiK made an unprecedented decision to impose fines on companies that are building Nord Stream 2 for continuing construction without the consent of the Polish authorities.
Now, “Gazprom” must pay the Polish side $ 7.6 billion, and the other five companies involved in the construction of the gas pipeline – $ 61 million in total. In addition, the Polish antimonopoly regulator ordered the termination of the contracts concluded to finance the construction of “Nord Stream 2” within 30 days.
Two years ago, the regulator indicted Gazprom, French “Engie Energy” (country of registration: Switzerland), German “Uniper”, Austrian “OMV”, Dutch-British “Shell” and German “Wintershall” (four companies are registered in Holland) of the procedures violation. As a result, Engie was fined for PLN 55 million, Uniper – PLN 29,9 million, OMV – PLN 87,5 million, Shell – PLN 30 million, Wintershall – 30,8 million PLN.
According to the Polish side, in 2017, despite the lack of official consent to the establishment of a joint venture, 6 of these companies entered into a number of agreements on the financing and joint management of Nord Stream 2. They were also supposed to become joint shareholders of the gas pipeline. According to the agreements, half of the construction cost of the gas pipeline, which is estimated at 10 billion euros, was to be invested by Gazprom, and the other half – by the 5 named companies.
Thus, according to the Polish regulator, Uniper, Engie, OMV, Shell and Wintershall were not only financial sources for the project, but also entered into a cartel conspiracy with Gazprom. This means that the project is a violation of the law and the principles of fair competition. Since the companies acted on purpose, they were punished with maximum financial penalties of 10% of their annual turnover.
As a result of the events, the volume of problems associated with the Nord Stream 2 project for Berlin and Brussels, finally exceeded those expected benefits for which Angela Merkel and her colleagues were ready to endure extrajudicial murders. Including the murder of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin.
Obviously, the ongoing situation and Kremlin’s inappropriate behavior forced European politicians to fix losses and exit unpromising and highly risky projects with Russia, which at first seemed very profitable. This is the issue I have talked about for a long time. European businessmen simply miscalculated the risks of cooperation with the Kremlin.
And the case with Navalny’s poisoning turned up at an opportune moment. Indeed, against its background, the Europeans can withdraw from joint projects with the Kremlin smoothly and with their heads held high, referring to the “difference in values.”
Thus, they will demonstrate in every possible way that the Russian side itself is to blame for the destruction of the project’s prospects, due to its inadequate foreign policy behavior, coupled with the poisoning of the opposition leaders. Well, how can one work with such people? …
How to force Europeans to love Russia?
Some weeks ago, the European press has been discussing the radical change of Angela Merkel’s and other German politicians’ attitude towards the Kremlin and the Nord Stream 2. Apparently, that was the reason for Sergei Lavrov’s decision to play on raising rates once again, threatening Europe with a break in relations with it.
According to Lavrov’s plan, those who make fabulous money from Russian hydrocarbons must make every effort to keep the Merkel government within the framework of earlier agreements. In the meantime, despite the bans, sanctions, fines and the worsening political relations with Berlin, the Kremlin’s increase in rates is taking place not only in words.
According to Russian media, the pipe-laying ship “Akademik Chersky”, which has to help the Kremlin to complete the gas pipeline independently and regardless of sanctions against maritime companies, is conducting tests near Kaliningrad to further resume the laying of the last 160 kilometers long section of Nord Stream 2 in Danish and German waters.
On October 1, the Danish Energy Agency issued the last permit for the launch of the Baltic gas pipeline. The Kremlin hopes to finish the pipeline in three months, prior to the US defense budget bill, which included expanding sanctions on Nord Stream 2, adoption. According to the MarineTraffic and Vesselfinder services, the supply vessels Umka and Finval arrived from the port of Mukran to the “Akademik Chersky” position between Kaliningrad and Klaipeda near the Curonian Spit.
Vessels from other companies involved in laying the pipeline are reportedly trying to shut down the AIS system to hide their location in the project area and not be subject to sanctions. However, in addition to sanctions against shipowners, there is also a decision by the International Group of P&I Clubs, or IG P&I, to refuse to provide insurance coverage to ships that may participate in the completion of the gas pipeline. This decision was made by a non-governmental association uniting 13 of the largest private ship insurance clubs in the world on September 21, 2020.
According to Russian media, Russian ships are conducting some tests. Although many Ukrainian experts agree that they are only demonstrating vigorous activity, passing off wishful thinking. In fact, the Russian side has no opportunity to complete the construction of Nord Stream 2 without partners possessing technologies and equipment.
Anticipating another large-scale geopolitical defeat, the Kremlin throws its high-ranking agents into battle in Berlin. For example, the former head of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) Gerhard Schindler, a merciless critic of Angela Merkel, believes that instead of criticizing Russia, it is better to cooperate with it. And if the international community is not ready to lend a hand to Moscow, then it must be Germany.
Thus, the Lavrov’s hysteria of the last days is completely understandable, however, it will not give the Russian side the desired results. Nevertheless, the blackmail “to stop doing business with Europe” is likely to grow. Let’s see if European business and political elites will be able to play the games of Russian gopniks?
Author : Institute for Postinformation Society