Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 27.12.2107
Never forget why sanctions were imposed on Russia. Russia invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014 and has been at war with the largest wholly European country ever since. Instead of declaring war against the Russia and actively helping Ukrainians who are defending and saving Europe, Western powers imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and entities that were responsible destroying the peace and committing crimes against humanity. Sanctions are the very least that Western powers could have done.
If Russia wants sanctions to be lifted, then the wisest course of action would be to stop attacking Ukraine, and for all Russian forces to leave Crimea and Donbas. But Putin is not a wise leader. The course he has set for Russia is unrelenting aggression against the West, primarily the West’s vanguard, Ukraine. Putin wishes to have sanctions on Russia lifted without any reference to Ukraine at all, and has used every tool of Russian information warfare and spy craft and blackmail and sabotage to do it. Putin fires shells and rockets at Ukrainian towns while demanding that sanctions be lifted. Putin kidnaps and tortures Europeans in Crimea and Donbas while demanding that sanctions be lifted.
A tactic of Putin at war is to try to disconnect sanctions against Russian individuals and entities from Russia’s invasion of Europe in Ukraine. The Russians were sanctioned by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the legislative body for Europe’s human rights body, after the so-called annexation of Crimea and the revelation of the start of Russia’s war crimes and violations of international human rights law. The Russian delegation is welcome to return to full voting rights in PACE when it complies with human rights resolutions about the de facto occupation of Crimea by the Russia. Instead of complying with PACE resolutions, Russia is increasing its violations of human rights in temporarily occupied Ukraine, especially against the Crimean Tatars. Instead of complying with PACE resolutions, Russia is threatening to withdraw from the Council of Europe. Russian officials, such as the Chairperson of the Russian Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko, make bellicose statements that “without any doubt” Russia will return to PACE and they condemn anyone who criticizes Russia – without addressing the substance of those criticisms. Unfortunately, the Western press repeats the statements of these Russian officials uncritically, and never state why PACE sanctioned the Russian delegation in the first place. The press also takes up the Russian-sponsored notion that Russia leaving the Council of Europe would be a disaster – when it would in fact strengthen the core human rights defending mission of Europe’s oldest human rights body.
Former Federal Chancellor of Germany, and now Director of the board of Russia's Rosneft, Gerhard Schröeder, like all Russian agents, never mentions Russia’s invasion of Europe in Crimea and Donbas as the cause of sanctions. He turns logic on its head, and says: “A step towards rapprochement could lead to the gradual lifting of reciprocal sanctions.” These are nice sounding words, but divorced from meaning and context and sense. Unfortunately, they are repeated uncritically by the Western press, without reference to Ukraine.
Other examples abound. Russian agents have their talking points: never mention Russia’s invasion of Europe in Crimea and Donbas and always talk about sanctions by connecting them to something else. It is clear why Putin wants to do this: he wants to win his war and destroy democratic Ukraine. What is not clear is why the Western press adopt the same narrative of disconnecting cause and effect. The real story, to any self-respecting reporter, is not sanctions on Russia. The real story is the war that is raging in the heart of Europe. The Western press should not be reporting what Putin and Putin’s agents say. They should be reporting what Putin’s army is doing in Crimea and Donbas. If the press did that, then the story about sanctions would be about how they can only possibly be considered to be lifted when Russia stops attacking Ukraine and takes its invasion army out of Crimea and Donbas. While Russia continues to attack Europe’s defenders and abuse the human rights of European civilians, then the story has to be a critical one about why Western leaders aren’t expanding and strengthening sanctions.