It would be easier to suspend trade with Russia completely and then decide on exceptions - expert

  • 2024-03-25
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - It would be simpler to stop trade with Russia completely and then decide on exceptions rather than adopt new and new sanctions packages, Tom Keatinge, Director of the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies (CFCS) at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), in an interview with LETA.

"I know that people might think this is too extreme a step. But we are now at the point where there are so many restrictions that it is actually easiest to say there is only one restriction, which is no trading. And then there are some exceptions, such as medicines that can be taken across the border. This will be much easier than now, when everything has to be checked," said the expert.

He also expressed the view that the drafters of the sanctions are clearly short of ideas and the risk is that the form of the sanctions package becomes important rather than its content. Therefore, European Union (EU) politicians should not think so much about new sanctions packages, but should focus on the sanctions already in place and whether they are really being implemented effectively.

"It is probably not even appropriate to talk about sanctions now. We should be talking about export controls. If we put another Russian general or someone else on the sanctions list, fine, but we need to focus on trade and trade again, on the goods that Russia receives. The real heroes of the EU now have to be the customs officers, because they are the ones who have to make sure that the things the Russian military needs do not get into Russia," Keatinge said.

Assessing how the EU is doing with the implementation of the sanctions against Russia so far, Keatinge stressed that the biggest mistake was "sitting on its hands" and not making full use of the instruments adopted, because initially everyone thought that the biggest job was to design the sanctions, not to implement them.

The expert stressed that every month that sanctions do not work allows populist politicians in different countries to say that all these sanctions are only hurting the economy, the current leadership is irresponsible and we should get rid of it all. However, it is not so much a question of having made a bad choice with regard to sanctions, but of not having used the sanctions and the powers that we have given ourselves.

"I support the use of sanctions, the potential of sanctions, and I am disappointed that we are not giving sanctions the best chance to succeed. We are taking uncertain decisions because we are worried about how it will affect our companies in Russia that are still there, or we are worried about how it will affect Russia, we are worried about how it will affect our energy situation. Guys, you have had two years to understand this!" Keatinge stressed.

At the same time, he acknowledged that the EU is well advanced compared to the sanctions it implemented two or three years ago.

Keatinge also expressed the hope that pressure on companies trying to circumvent the sanctions should be seen more often in the future.

As an example, he said that the EU is now trying to put pressure on companies in other countries. The EU is not saying, please comply with EU law, it is saying, you can choose what you want to do, but we can inform companies, banks and your other business partners in the EU that they are doing business with a company that has chosen to facilitate sanctions evasion.

Keatinge also noted that an important development at the end of last year was the adoption of the 12th sanctions package, which introduced a clause banning re-exports. This obliges EU companies to include a no re-export clause in contracts with importers in Kazakhstan, for example. There is also a directive on the criminalization of sanctions evasion, so countries that still cannot be punished for facilitating sanctions evasion need to address this quickly.

"In fact, I know from my own experience working in a bank that nothing makes you change the way you do things like having one of your competitors prosecuted by the authorities, and you realize that it could have been you. You have to punish a few people or a few companies to change attitudes in the private sector," said the British expert.