I discussed previously the sanctions that the United States and the European Union have implemented against the Russian elite here. You can also find a complete list of those sanctioned by the EU, US, Canada, and Australia here, but it is in Russian.
I want to dig a little deeper into the goals and motivations behind the targeted sanctions. As I stated previously, the goal of the sanctions in their current form appears to be to create a split within the elite and to force either Putin to back down, or face a coup.
However, if this is the objective of the sanctions, it is a mistake. In many ways, it is reminiscent of the logic used when instituting the “Reset”. The “Reset” that failed miserably, and arguably brought us to where we are today: with Russia invading Ukraine.
Let’s step back and look again at the “Reset” policy that was implemented in the early days of the Obama Administration. Despite the inauspicious beginning when Hillary Clinton gifted Lavrov a button labelled with a mistranslation of “Reset” to “Overcharge”, the Obama administration persisted with the policy. The plan was based on the theory that then-President Dmitry Medvedev was a somewhat autonomous actor and capable of operating in an independent manner. Medvedev was feted by President Obama and the US State Department. The video below probably sums up the relationship the best
However, the “Reset” was officially killed off on 24 September 2011 with the public humiliation of Dmitry Medvedev, when Vladimir Putin proved to the world that the independence of Dmitry Medvedev was a sham.
Despite the abject failure of the “Reset”, it appears that the West is pursuing a similar line in dealing with the current crisis.
Here are the people who have not been placed on the sanctions lists:
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev
It is pretty well established that Medvedev holds a weak hand, and cannot be relied upon to change course. There is not much more to say beyond what I wrote above about Medvedev.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Lavrov cannot be sanctioned because he is essentially the chief negotiator for Vladimir Putin in this conflict. It does not matter that he sounds crazy more often than not. I rather suspect that Lavrov has been given this role to play and he is playing it up for all he is worth. His motivation for this is not clear, and open to speculation. Whether it is from a sense of loyalty to Putin, a warped nationalistic feeling, or something more sinister does not matter. An envoy is needed to keep the conversation going. And, for better or worse, Lavrov is that individual.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu
Is Shoigu (great background here by Oleg Kashin) not on the list because the West thinks they can negotiate with? Or is he not on the list for other opaque reasons? I am not sure, to be honest. I think there may be various factors at play with Shoigu, including the fact that he is playing the long game. He has managed to stay in Government for nearly 25 years now. He has built a cohort around himself that looks to be largely loyal. Shoigu could potentially pull out the rug from under Putin and force some kind of coup. But the risks for him are that someone else may do it first, or that he could end up being the fall guy if Putin feels like he has to back down.
Sberbank President German Gref
Gref has long been viewed as a ‘liberal democrat’. What this means in the context of the current system is that he has advocated for certain economic policies. This was particularly true when he was a Minister in the Government. But rumor has it that Gref wanted out of the Government for a very long time before he was finally allowed to ‘leave’ in 2008. It seems hard to believe that he would or could leave now.
Finance Minister Anton Siluanov
I think Siluanov is in the same boat as Gref. He is not happy with the situation as it currently stands, and would like to leave, but cannot for various unknown reasons.
First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov
Shuvalov is also viewed as ‘liberal’, but this is a questionable proposition for several reasons. Shuvalov has recently been advocating Putin’s ‘deoffshorisation’ proposal to bring the money in ‘offshore’ accounts back into Russia. Certainly Shuvalov likes the money that the so-called ‘liberal’ policies have brought him. But what exactly are we counting on? That Igor Shuvalov likes the money in his alleged offshore accounts more than he likes Vladimir Putin and/or Russia? This seems far-fetched to me.
In implementing these sanctions we appear to be labling one group as ‘good’ and another as ‘bad’, in the hopes of pitting them against one another. But is that an accurate assessment? And what are we basing that on? The same faulty intel that said Dmitry Medvedev had the wherewithal to ditch his mentor, Vladimir Putin? These are relationships that have lasted for decades. How can you possibly expect somebody to betray and walk away from a relationship that has lasted that long? I just don’t believe that this is a winning strategy.