Galia Ackerman: Economic crisis made Russia change its foreign policy. It aims at lifting sanctions and restoring business relations with EU


Kyiv, September 16, 2015. “Too many clouds have gathered over Russia’s economic and political horizon. Oil and gas price on international market has decreased and almost all analysts are convinced that it will continue falling. It results from lifting of sanctions on Iran, enduring crisis in China and discovery of new oil and gas deposits. Thus a huge gas deposit has been recently discovered in Egypt,” said Galia Ackerman, researcher, journalist and historian, Executive Director of the European Forum for Ukraine International Association at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

In addition to the price decrease of oil and gas, that are the main source of income to the Russian budget, the expert pointed at other factors that have a negative impact on the economic and political situation in Russia. Firstly, the final results of investigation on downing the Boeing will be made public at the end of October 2015. As per the preliminary data, the conclusions directly blame so-called Donetsk separatists and their leaders in Kremlin. Second important factor is the Yukos case, when the International Arbitration Court ruled for a USD 50-billion compensation to the shareholders. Russian government is not going to pay this compensation violating all international norms. It led to the state of play when some of the Russian Federation assets have been arrested. Yukos shareholders addressed the Supreme Court of Germany demanding to abjudge Russian assets in the country in the amount of USD 42 billion. Thirdly, the effect from sanctions is quite visible now. As a result, Russia is facing budget deficit, cannot borrow money on external markets, its direct investments have decreased two times over the last year, income of Russian banks have decreased eight times over the last six months. “In general, the economic situation is such that it will be harder and harder for Putin to implement the unspoken pact he made with the Russian people at the beginning of his ruling: “We are ruling and you live better.” Better living is not going to happen and, if part of the Russian people will tolerate it, the ruling elite will most likely be trying to, if not make a coup, then in any case change the Russian foreign and may be even domestic policy.”

Galia Ackerman underlined that the main sign showing that Russia’s policy has changed is the events in Greece. According to her, Russia has been making stakes at the break up of the European Union since the beginning of 2014 using Greece. “The German media and Bild magazine in particular published an article according to which Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek minister of economy in the government of Alexis Tsipras, even before SYRIZA came to power was in close contact with the Institute for Strategic Research that operates under the Putin’s aegis. The Institute actually developed the strategy to bring SYRIZA to power aiming at withdrawal of Greece from the European Union. Both Varoufakis and Tsipras went to Russia several times and personally met Putin. According to the German media, Varoufakis and several other SYRIZA members were preparing a coup. They were planning to arrest the Head of the Greek Central Bank, seize available Euro reserves and start printing drachmae as well as deny all commitments that Greece had towards the EU. That’s why the Greek government organized the referendum. After the referendum results were announced, Varoufakis resigned and Tsipras agreed to all the EU conditions. “There are several different versions that explain such course of events. It is not known exactly whether Putin promised USD 10 billion to Tsipras or it was one of his advisors, but Tsipras did not get the money. Why? In the time period between the preparation for the referendum and the referendum itself several developments occurred. That is oil price decrease, collapse of Russia’s economy, lawsuit on Yukos case, investigation of Boeing downing and the sanctions effect. And the main thing – economic crisis in China, devaluation of yuan and drastic shortage of the trade turnover between Russia and China. I think that Russian economists have calculated that if there is a collapse in Greece it will hit not only the European Union but the Russian elite as well that has huge investment and property in the EU. That’s probably why Putin left Greece that had nothing else to do but obediently return to the EU.”

Galia Ackerman reminded that observers at the Crimea “referendum” were only a few representatives of the far right and far left parties. This summer a delegation of French MPs, members of the Nicolas Sarkozy’s party suddenly attended Crimea. In parralel, Nicolas Sarkozy starts to actively support Russia while his right hand Nadine Morano creates a group for support of Russia in the European Parliament. “Possibly due to the economic collapse Russia was forced to change its course: its main aim now is not breaking the EU but have the sanctions lifted and business relations restored.”

Executive Director of the European Forum for Ukraine also pointed to the unexpected emersion of Dmitriy Medvedev in the media space. “Suspension of combat actions in Donbas, emersion of Dmitriy Medvedev whom the EU was seeing as quite an acceptable liberal alternative to Putin, considerable decrease of support to the European ultra-right and ultra-left parties demonstrate the change in Russia’s foreign policy.”