Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 05.01.2019
Putin crony Dmitry Rogozin will not be going to the United States after all. The head of the US space agency NASA, Jim Bridenstine, indefinitely rescinded an invitation he had extended to Rogozin last autumn. It now appears as if a temporary lifting of sanctions on Rogozin will not take place, and Americand will be spared the presence of this notorious war criminal.
On 20 February 2014, the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine. At the time, Dmitry Rogozin was Deputy Prime Minister, serving warlord Putin. He was instrumental in the long-planned and unprovoked launch of Putin’s War against Ukraine. Because he poses a grave threat to international peace and security, Dmitry Rogozin was sanctioned by the United States, the European Union, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, Norway and other countries. He cannot travel to these countries and his money, assets, and property in these jurisdictions is frozen. Rogozin is such a notorious figure that he was in the first batch of Russian individuals sanctioned by the US, on 17 March 2014.
It is a mistake to say that Rogozin was sanctioned because the Russian Federation claimed to have ‘annexed’ Crimea. Executive Order 13660 is an official finding by the US government that, in the words of the White House press statement of 17 March 2014, “the actions and policies of the Russian government with respect to Ukraine – including through the deployment of Russian military forces in the Crimea region of Ukraine –- undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets.” US sanctions are imposed on Dmitry Rogozin because the Russian Federation is at war with Ukraine, and in that war Rogozin is a war criminal and a thief.
Putin switched Rogozin to be the Director General of Roscosmos, the Russian Federation’s space agency, as a way to bust sanctions. For the moment, NASA is dependent on heavy-lift rockets provided by Roscosmos to bring US astronauts to the International Space Station. The Russians hoped to gull the Americans into accepting Rogozin despite sanctions. They appeared to have succeeded when NASA chief Bridenstine – a former Republican Party politician and Trump loyalist – visited the Russian Federation in the autumn of 2018 and invited Rogozin to visit the US.
To visit the US, travel restrictions would have to be removed and so sanctions on Rogozin would have to be lifted. The Trump White House signalled that this would take place. But a fierce backlash grew because of the plan to weaken the sanctions regime and because of the unsavoury character of Rogozin himself.
Weakening the sanctions regime, whether for Rogozin or for any Russian individual or entity, weakens the national security and global power of the United States. The US is a guarantor of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity under the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances because Ukraine voluntarily relinquished all of its nuclear weapons in the 1990s. When the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine in 2014 and partially occupied its territory, the US was obliged to make good on its promise. Instead of stopping Putin’s War and liberating Ukrainian territory of Crimea and Donbas, the only thing the US and other Western countries did was impose limited sanctions on Russian individuals and entities responsible for imperialist aggression.
The US should not lift sanctions on Russia because sanctions were the least the US could do to keep its promise to Ukraine. To allow a virulent nationalist and unrepentant war criminal like Dmitry Rogozin into the US would be a stab in the back to the Ukrainian people. Ukrainians fight on the battlefront in Luhansk and Donetsk regions to stop Putin’s invasion army and they do that without fighting allies. The spectacle of Rogozin being welcomed by Americans, by NASA and reportedly by Rice University, would have been unbearable.
Backing down on the Rogozin invitation should serve as a lesson to ill-informed and inattentive politicians and bureaucrats everywhere. Sanctions on Russia can only be lifted when the reasons for imposing them in the first place no longer apply. Russian individuals and entities responsible for war against Ukraine can only possibly be relieved of restrictions on their travel and assets when Russian aggression is defeated, when Crimea and Donbas are liberated, and when Europe is once again at peace.