MOSCOW, February 19. /TASS/. The European Union has cornered itself and will now be unable to avoid taking any steps against Russia at all over the blogger Alexey Navalny case, but future restrictions will be not very harsh, the board chairman of the Foundation for the Support and Development of the International Discussion Club Valdai, Andrei Bystritsky, told TASS.
"Europe will impose some sanctions on Russia. The sanctions will be a compromise between the wish to react somehow and the reluctance to over-react at the same time. The Europeans have driven themselves into a corner. In this situation they will have to step on the brake pedal," Bystritsky said.
He is certain that in Europe "many realize who Navalny is in reality."
"But there are promises, obligations and many loud declarations concerning the Helsinki Act. There is French President Emmanuel Macron’s claims "you do not let us establish relations with you." Amid this mess the Western politicians will have to maneuver. They cannot afford to do without any sanctions at all, but, in all likelihood, they will take a very soft line," Bystritsky explained.
The head of the Russian International Affairs Council, Andrey Kortunov, believes that sanctions against one of the crucial sectors of the Russian economy, for instance, the energy industry or the financial system, would be the most unpleasant scenario, but at the same time the least probable one. The EU will most likely prefer to follow the "traditional path": to confine itself to individual sanctions that would concern concrete officials and participants in the lawsuits against Navalny.
"This will be the least painful option for Russia," Kortunov told TASS.
He warns, though, that the Navalny issue may become a permanent background in Russia-EU relations and a hindrance to the bilateral dialogue.
On Nord Stream 2
Bystritsky doubts the EU’s future sanctions might affect the Nord Stream 2 gas carrier project. "I’d bet ten against one they will not involve the pipeline. Many say the sanctions will concern only certain individuals," he remarked.
Bystritsky recalled a recent report by Bloomberg to the effect the United States would not apply restrictions to the German participants in the project.
"The German economy’s involvement in Nord Stream 2, the investment made in it, and the expectations for using this gas source for a certain period of time is an important aspect. I do not think that any sanctions against Nord Stream 2 are due," Bystritsky said.
At the same time the project will remain a theme of the anti-Russian sanctions discourse for a long time, even when the project is up and running.
On February 7, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said following his visit to Moscow that the European Union might impose another package of restrictions on Russia over the Navalny case by using a new mechanism that envisages sanctions for human rights violations. He added that the EU foreign ministers would discuss the possibility on February 22. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in reply it was surprised by the top European diplomat’s comments on his visit to Russia, in particular, the discrepancy with Borrell’s previous statements.