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How Putin Can Strike Back at Sanctions

Published: March 24, 2014 (Issue # 1802)


In the wake of President Vladimir Putin's decision to annex Crimea, there is much talk in the West that Russia must pay a serious price. But the discussion of how to "punish" Russia largely overlooks the fact that Moscow would retaliate with penalties of its own if the West imposed sanctions on Russia.

Above all, Russia can use the gas weapon against Ukraine, which would cripple the Ukrainian economy and as well as cause widespread disruption across Europe.

In 2009, when Moscow shut down all gas deliveries to Ukraine, the disruption resulted in substantial shortages and rises in gas prices throughout Europe. Europe still imports 30 percent of its gas from Russia, and several Eastern European countries are close to 100 percent reliant on Russia.

A number of European countries are suffering severe economic problems, and as a whole European economies have performed significantly worse than that of the U.S. Therefore, a cutoff of Russian gas might well throw Europe back into a full recession.

In the Middle East, Russia could also significantly disrupt the P5+1 negotiations with Iran over Tehran's nuclear program. Putin could decide to move forward with the supply of advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, or take concrete steps to assist Tehran's desire to build a second nuclear power plant.

Putin also possesses a "swing vote" in the Syrian crisis, and if he decides to double down on his support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, any chance for a cease-fire in Syria could be wrecked.

Afghanistan is another theater where Putin could strike a blow against Western primarily U.S. interests. The northern route that U.S forces use to ship equipment in and out of Afghanistan runs through Russia. Putin could shut this down at any time, thereby greatly complicating the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan.

Finally, Putin could ratchet up tensions in other states with substantial ethnic Russian populations, such as Estonia and Latvia. Last week, Moscow sent shudders through Estonia by complaining that its policy requiring its Russian population to speak Estonian was comparable to Ukraine's policy of limiting the use of Russian.

While Russia may no longer have the superpower status of the former Soviet Union, when it comes to sanctions Putin has plenty of cards of his own to play.

Josh Cohen, a former U.S. State Department official, works for a satellite technology company in the Washington area.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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