Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 19.10.2017
How national governments and their leaders react to Russia’s invasion of Europe in Ukraine has become a test of Western values and Western unity. In recent days, it appears that Canada and the United States are moving in opposite directions when it comes to sanctions on Russian individuals and entities. Travel bans and asset seizures and barring from doing business are measures in response to Russian human rights violations, war crimes, and falsification of elections and manipulation of democratic institutions. Canada will be implementing new sanctions because it has passed a “Magnitsky” law. The US is delaying implementing new sanctions because Trump refuses to act in his executive capacity when it comes to the expanded sanctions law passed by Congress. The European Union can barely manage to agree to extend sanctions it introduced in 2014, let alone introduce new ones that would be justified by Russia’s expanded aggression and increased violation of international human rights.
On October 18, Canada’s law called “Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials (Sergei Magnitsky Law)” received Royal Assent. The Government of Canada will now turn to implementing the law, which means regulations introduced, which means sanctions will be imposed. A government official has already hinted that the first individuals who will be sanctioned for grave violations of international human rights will be Russian and Venezuelan officials. Members of Parliament have also expressed a desire to see corrupt Myanmar officials sanctioned because of the persecution of the Rohingya. When it comes to corrupt Russian officials, Bill Browder has said that he hopes Canada will first sanction the murderers of his friend and colleague Sergei Magnitsky, whose name is in the short title of Canada’s law.
On October 11, two US Senators, John McCain and Ben Cardin, issued a joint statement criticizing the Trump administration for missing an October 1 deadline to specify the individuals and entities in the Russian defence and intelligence community that will be targeted for punishment. Russia attacked US democratic institutions in 2016 and falsified the 8 November 2016 election, and the US Congress has passed (and Trump has signed) a law saying Russia must be punished. Trump has refused to do anything. In fact, Trump has never criticized Putin or Russia or voluntarily taken any action against Russian interests.
The McCain/Cardin letter stresses the lack of Western unity that Trump is exacerbating by refusing to implement legally-required sanctions on Moscow. They wrote: “There does not appear to be a significant diplomatic effort to engage our allies in Europe and lead an effort to increase pressure on Moscow. Congressional intent was clear, reflected in the overwhelming bipartisan majority in favor of the legislation.” Canada’s government has continually stressed the need to work in concert with Canada’s allies. Prime Minister Trudeau said on 10 April 2017: “We are always open to working with our friends, allies and partners allies to send clear messages through sanctions and other means to Russia.”
Canada, the US, and the EU, must work together and expand sanctions against Russia. The corrupt Russian officials who are invaders of Europe and violators of human rights will otherwise simply exploit differences between jurisdictions in the application of sanctions, and make them useless. Right now, for example, Rosneft chairman and financier of Russia’s invasion of Europe in Ukraine, Igor Sechin, is banned from travel to the United States, but free to travel to Canada and the European Union. Canada and the EU won’t explain their lack of unity. Another example is Anatoly Antonov: justly sanctioned by Canada and the EU as a war criminal responsible for Russia’s invasion of Crimea and Donbas, but acceptable to Trump to become Russia’s Ambassador to the US.
“United we stand, divided we fall” is true about sanctions regimes agains Russian human rights abusers and war criminals. Canada, the US, and the EU have to get their act together to defend Western civilization from Russian aggression and invasion.