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Lahodynsky – Belarus sanctions have to hurt

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Vienna. June 2, 2021

by Otmar Lahodynsky, former AEJ international president

The EU should adopt tougher punitive measures against Lukashenko. Trying to protect him from Putin’s clampdown was illusory.

Can the EU topple the dictatorial regime of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus with new sanctions? Probably not, but after the forced landing of an EU airliner, further economic and financial sanctions seem inevitable. Potash exports, for example, which are important for obtaining foreign currency, are said to be affected. Cutting the country off from international banking networks like Swift is also being considered.

The EU should adopt tougher punitive measures against Lukashenko. Trying to protect him from Putin’s clampdown was illusory.

Can the EU topple the dictatorial regime of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus with new sanctions? Probably not, but after the forced landing of an EU airliner, further economic and financial sanctions seem inevitable. Potash exports, for example, which are important for obtaining foreign currency, are said to be affected. Cutting the country off from international banking networks like Swift is also being considered.

Since the Maastricht Treaty, which also gave the EU competences in common foreign and security policy in 1992, considerably more sanctions have been imposed. According to the list (www.sanctionsmap.eu), more than 170 punitive measures are currently in force against more than 30 countries.

Since December 2020, the EU has had a new mechanism against people worldwide for human rights violations. This was first used in March against China – for its repression of the Uighurs – and other countries. Entry bans and account freezes have also been imposed on several people in Russia involved in the conviction of opposition figure Alexei Nawalny.

But among diplomats, the theory has been that sanctions only work against smaller states; with large ones like China or Russia, the effects on their own economies are usually too great. That is why the trade sanctions imposed on China in 1989 did not last long because of the bloody crackdown on protests in Beijing.

In the case of Belarus, international organisations would now have to demand the release of regime critics and the holding of new elections under supervision. Airlines like Turkish Airlines or Aeroflot that continue to fly to Minsk would have to be banned from landing at EU airports. But that would cause new problems with Ankara and Moscow.

The EU imposed sanctions against Russia in several stages after the occupation of Crimea in 2016, which violated international law, and the conflict in eastern Ukraine fomented by the Kremlin.

Conversely, Moscow imposed import restrictions on the EU in the agricultural sector. Because of Vladimir Putin’s support for Lukashenko, EU politicians such as David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, are now calling for tougher measures. However, individual EU countries such as Hungary or Cyprus could veto them. Therefore, the unanimity principle should be dropped here.

Perhaps the advice of Ukraine’s ambassador to Austria, Olexander Scherba, should be followed first. In his new book “Ukraine vs. Darkness” he suggests measures against oligarchs who support Putin’s system: “Let the Russian decision-makers, propagandists, oligarchs and their families spend their holidays on Kamchatka or Chukotka, not in their English castles or Italian villas. Cut them off from their wealth – by Swift, visa revocation, freezing their accounts. Poison not only their reputations, but their money. That’s all it takes.”

 

Since the Maastricht Treaty, which also gave the EU competences in common foreign and security policy in 1992, considerably more sanctions have been imposed. According to the list (www.sanctionsmap.eu), more than 170 punitive measures are currently in force against more than 30 countries.

Since December 2020, the EU has had a new mechanism against people worldwide for human rights violations. This was first used in March against China – for its repression of the Uighurs – and other countries. Entry bans and account freezes have also been imposed on several people in Russia involved in the conviction of opposition figure Alexei Nawalny.

But among diplomats, the theory has been that sanctions only work against smaller states; with large ones like China or Russia, the effects on their own economies are usually too great. That is why the trade sanctions imposed on China in 1989 did not last long because of the bloody crackdown on protests in Beijing.

In the case of Belarus, international organisations would now have to demand the release of regime critics and the holding of new elections under supervision. Airlines like Turkish Airlines or Aeroflot that continue to fly to Minsk would have to be banned from landing at EU airports. But that would cause new problems with Ankara and Moscow.

The EU imposed sanctions against Russia in several stages after the occupation of Crimea in 2016, which violated international law, and the conflict in eastern Ukraine fomented by the Kremlin.

Conversely, Moscow imposed import restrictions on the EU in the agricultural sector. Because of Vladimir Putin’s support for Lukashenko, EU politicians such as David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, are now calling for tougher measures. However, individual EU countries such as Hungary or Cyprus could veto them. Therefore, the unanimity principle should be dropped here.

Perhaps the advice of Ukraine’s ambassador to Austria, Olexander Scherba, should be followed first. In his new book “Ukraine vs. Darkness” he suggests measures against oligarchs who support Putin’s system: “Let the Russian decision-makers, propagandists, oligarchs and their families spend their holidays on Kamchatka or Chukotka, not in their English castles or Italian villas. Cut them off from their wealth – by Swift, visa revocation, freezing their accounts. Poison not only their reputations, but their money. That’s all it takes.”

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