(Moscow-on-Thames) Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s irrepressible spokesman, said today that Russia would like to know what it could do to get sanctions reduced.
This, of course, set tongues wagging, both in Russia and abroad, although most of those tongues seem to have assumed the question was rhetorical. And of course, at least in part, it was – but not entirely. Peskov has denied that Putin and Donald Trump discussed steps towards reducing sanctions when they met in Helsinki, but I’m not certain that particular denial is credible. And just about everyone assumes sanctions were on the agenda when Putin and Merkel met on August 18th.
On the face of it, of course, the answer is blindingly obvious: Stop doing things the US and Europe don’t like. Questions of fairness aside, one does not need to be Kissinger to parse the realpolitikhere. And yet, that obviousness is deceptive.
Let’s leave aside for the moment one other question, namely whether the Kremlin actually wants to get out from under sanctions. I’ve argued to anyone who will listen that this is far from certain: the Russian economy is doing okay, it has largely adapted to the limitations and the cost of capital that sanctions have created, and while things aren’t great, they certainly aren’t Turkey. Moreover, sanctions very usefully bind the Russian economic elite to the Kremlin, forcing them to run their financing requirements through the Finance Ministry and/or the Central Bank, giving Putin more leverage over the titans of industry than he has ever enjoyed. […]
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