The director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), Dr. Leonid Reshetnikov, gave the German Center for Eurasian Studies an exclusive interview about the effects of the anti-Russian sanction politics.
Dr. Reshetnikov, in July the EU is going to extend sanctions against Russia for another six months. What are the economic effects of the sanctions on Russia?
Reshetnikov: Of course, we do not like it, the more we had years and years of very successfully development of economic relations with the European Union and the European countries. Both Europe and Russia have received considerable benefit from the development of these relations. At the moment, both sides have lost such benefits, but if someone in Europe had reckoned, that the sanctions will cause serious damage to the economy or the moral atmosphere in Russia, they had deeply mistaken. Definitely, we never said that the sanctions are not painful for us, but, on the other hand, for now they have not brought and certainly will not bring the result that has been expected in Europe.
Russia largely is a self-sufficient country. This self-sufficiency is provided by territory, natural resources, previous achievements, and hard-working and resilient people. Therefore, we cope with the problems, and, by all estimates, including Western, next year will be more successful for the Russian economy. The sanctions have mobilized our producers both in industry and in agriculture; now we have lots of very promising projects.
In Germany, all the entrenched political parties tend to protect and encourage sanctions against Russia. In your opinion, does Germany benefit from the sanctions against Russia?
Reshetnikov: I am sure that there are no benefits. In general, everything that happens in Germany’s policy towards Russia, is just surprising. In our opinion, in the last 15 years, German businesses had obtained a tremendous opportunity to work in Russia, and now they almost themselves have abandoned these opportunities. Promoting sanctions against Russia brings disadvantages only. The actions by the German politicians are questionable in terms of their ability to think and act by themselves.
Leading German media claim: “Sanctions are necessary in order to put pressure on Putin”. How do you think this policy works? Did Putin’s policy change because of the sanctions?
Reshetnikov: I would say it in more severe way – the sanctions were imposed not only to exert pressure, but also to try to cause mass discontent in the country, which would be used for Putin’s removal from the post of president. Independent observers are now witnessing a reverse effect: the vast majority of people have mobilized themselves in support of the president’s policies. And if before the introduction of sanctions our citizens liked to discuss, whether the President’s actions are wrong or correct, now the number of such people is extremely small.
Thus, because of the sanctions the only one major change in the policy of Russia has happened: I mean considerable increase in support for Putin. This is a normal reaction of our people; it has always been like that. For example, when the World War II began, some people in the Soviet Union did not support Stalin and were waiting for his fall. The attack on the Soviet Union resulted in that lots of people have raised to defend their country and refused to confront with the country’s leadership. Our people have always responded and will always respond to the external pressure in the same way.
How do you assess the economic consequences of the sanctions policy, especially with regard to German business?
Reshetnikov: German business will suffer no less, and perhaps even more than the Russian business. I think it’s time to return to normal economic relations, as our country is set up in favor of active and fruitful development of Russian-German cooperation.
What are the prospects for positive development of German-Russian business and political relations?
Reshetnikov: I believe that far not all Germans are unanimous in their support of the course, which is now being implemented by the German leadership. According to our estimates, lot of people in the political and business circles advocate in favor of a return to the previous trade and economic relations, because the reason of sanctions is largely contrived: the issue of the reunification of Crimea with Russia is similar to the issue of the reunification of two Germanies, and the situation in Ukraine is such that we can with the full responsibility assert, that Moscow strictly adheres the Minsk agreements. Therefore, there are no serious reasons to turn Russia from a partner into the opponent.
This entire quibble – the opponent, the rival, the enemy – is a very dangerous game, which can easily result in rather adverse events, affecting the whole world situation. The West loves to give us various advices, so we also want to advise the West in general and German politicians in particular: think well what the result of this game could be, and whether it is what Germany actually needs. Russia is certainly not interested in the situation progressing in that way.