St. Petersburg International Economic Forum: Afterword

By Mikolas Katilus:

putin_spiefOn June 16-18, 2016 the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum was held. This time the Russians were surprised by its pathos and international community – by high-ranking European politicians having attended the forum. For the first time after the Crimea annexation politicians of such a high level visited this Forum.

The Russians were extremely pleased with attendance of quite numerous Italian delegation headed by the Prime-minister of Italy Matteo Renzi. Warm attitude of the Italians towards Russia has been an open secret for a long time, so the high status of the Italian delegation was not surprising. Yet the Renzi’s speech caused some confusion in Europe. In particular, his statement concerning the fact that Europe had taken a consistent and joint decision to impose sanctions against Russia without any pressure from the United States sounded like an excuse and justification rather than confirmation of the rigid EU position in response to the aggressive actions of Russia. Indeed, the European business was forced to wind down trade relations with Russia, to reduce investments and consequently incur some losses. Nevertheless, the EU states demonstrated a consolidated position and firmness in terms sanctions imposing issue, as in this case the long-term prospects and European values prevail over a short-term advantage.

It is commonly known that the St. Petersburg Forum was attended by the head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, who also distinguished himself by his loud statements. In particular, he said that despite the sanctions, it is impossible to break off the well-established economic ties with Russia and emphasized that it was necessary “to leave the door open” and in case of problems to have an appointment and discussion. Such statements, to some extent, downplay the Western efforts to curb Russian aggression and enable Russian politicians to make profit on them, seeking the lifting of sanctions.

Unfortunately, certain European politicians tend to curry favour with Russian authorities at the moment when the unity of the European community over the issue of sanctions is of the utmost importance up to the moment of implementation of the engagements arranged in Minsk, as European safety depends on it.

Controversial was also a speech of the UN Secretary–General Ban Ki-moon, who, inter alia, stated that “the Russian Federation, as a founding member of the UN and as a of the Security Council, has a very important role to play”. Ban Ki-moon expressed concern over “breaking ties” between States and called on the European Union to “refuse from “building walls”.

However, it was surprising that Ban Ki-moon in his speech made no mention about the reasons of “breaking ties” and particularly about breaking international agreements and international laws by Russia, about Crimea annexation, Russian military aggression in Donbass. UN Secretary-General didn’t mention also that Russia as a permanent member of the Security Council, exploiting its right to veto, cynically obstructs decision making process, preventing normal performance of the organization. Thereby Russia virtually brings to naught the role and impact of the UN as international structure designed to facilitate arrangement of international conflicts.

Probably Ban Ki-moon sincerely believes that Russia is ready to back out of its imperial ambitions in order to renew their former relationships and effective cooperation with the EU. Perhaps that is why he paid so much attention in his speech to the need of strengthening economic ties, hoping sincerely that this approach will allow to settle existing conflicts. However, he seems to have forgotten that the development of economic cooperation is possible only under condition of mutual respect and the States’ full compliance with the international law.

The international community is facing the fact of persisting danger of involving other European countries in the military conflict broken out in the center of Europe expects the UN Security Council to adopt the constructive solutions. Unfortunately, this authoritative international organization still shows nothing but its powerlessness… And it proves once again that it is time to reform UN. The reforms should result in effective instruments to counter the aggressor, as it affects the overall security.

— Article first published in The Ground Report

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