The economic sanctions against Russia work but could be more effective, a conference in Brussels heard.
It was informed that Russia has been able to partially bypass the sanctions thanks to the support of its allies, such as Iran.
This is why EU member countries “could more” to make sanctions more effective, according to the event.
A wide variety of measures have been taken to curb Russia’s ability to pay for its invasion of Ukraine.
The European Union has threatened to impose sanctions on Russia’s exports. It said it would ban all oil imports from Russia by 2022.
The UK will stop Russian oil imports by 2022. Germany has stopped plans to open a major Russian gas pipeline and the EU stated that it will stop Russian coal imports.
On Tuesday, however, Russia was informed that it may be able to “circumvent” some sanctions by “teaming up with allies like Iran.
The keynote speaker was Rebecca Schonenbach (Berlin-based economist, CEO of Veto! She stated that there was “clear evidence that sanctions had some effect” and that Russia was “hunting for high tech semiconductors and other equipment in order to replenish supplies.” This would allow the war in Ukraine continue.
She stated that Russia has run out of weapons and must find new suppliers to replenish their stock.
This week, there have been reports that Russia has purchased millions of artillery shells and rockets from North Korea in support of its invasion of Ukraine.
She claimed that Russia’s sanctions could be most severe in the technology sector, largely due to its “basic” domestic technology.
She stated that Iran and others, including Iran, could help Russia “counter and evade” economic sanction. This includes by providing it with high-tech equipment like drones and military components, and by signing “energy Swap” agreements.
She said, “They are collaborating with each other against democracy” and “the rule of law.”
Schonenbach, who worked in Russia in the 1990s, has a deep understanding of Russia. However, she said that the West had “underestimated countries far from Europe”. The invasion of Ukraine and Russian aggression elsewhere have underlined the danger of this strategy because countries such as Russia and Iran will remain hostile. She said that Iran, like Russia, has been active in Europe, targeting European citizens and the Iranian opposition.
She suggests that one solution is for EU member countries to adopt Magnitsky laws.
This legislation is named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian prisoner who was 37 when he discovered a $230million tax fraud by his government.
At the Brussels press club, she stated that such laws would allow European countries to unilaterally sanction certain people and their families. She also said, “This would strike the Iranian regime hard.”
She said, “Both of President Putin’s daughters reside in the West while his 2nd mistress lives and works in Switzerland. This is the same pattern that all dictators and elites follow: They keep their people in the dark, while sending their own to the West. Iran is no exception to this.
Energy is an issue, but it can be solved. One of the greatest problems in Europe is that dictators can operate here and exert real influence.
She said that propaganda was something the West also had to fight against. “Cutting off gas supplies like Russia is threatening will increase the energy supply problem, but remember that energy prices have been rising long before the invasion by Ukraine.
“To connect the war with energy supply problems is all part the Russian narrative: That the West is evil and has created its (energy) problems is the Russian narrative.”
Expert in extremism, Schonenbach said that the war in Ukraine is still not considered a threat to the personal well being of West European citizens.
She warned, however, that if Ukraine loses the war it will only strengthen dictatorships. Because Russia’s successful years and economic growth were over, President Putin invaded Ukraine. He needed an external enemy.
“He is trying to get Russians against him to unite, but it is difficult to determine how much support and who will replace him.
“He is surrounded with 10-20 oligarchs, and those who aren’t loyal often end up dying – falling from windows has become a popular method of death for such people.
“But you can’t kill everyone, so the West must help the Russian opposition.” This has been proven to be beneficial in Ukraine, but it is not currently being done in Russia or Iran.
She expressed concern about Russia’s “brain drain”, saying that “about 100,000 people have fled Russia” and that these are the well-educated, young generation. You should also remember that You Tube is available to an estimated 80 percent, even though it’s banned in Russia. These people require our support.”
Concerning Europe’s dependence on Russia for oil and gas, she stated, “This will become the biggest issue this winter. It is one reason why our governments must act now to diversify our energie markets like Japan has done. We cannot see Iran as an option to diversify our sources of energy while Russia and Iran have close allies.”
She said, “We will see a lot more money coming down from European governments in the next months to help people paying their energy bills. But despite real energy supply problems I am confident that people in Europe won’t freeze in their homes this winter.”
She argued that to suggest otherwise was to “feed into Russian propaganda”.
She stated that Russia is trying to put the blame for the current energy supply problems on Western sanctions, but this is false. It is not possible to solve problems with energy supply by lifting sanctions. The West has structural problems that it needs to address, but this has nothing to do Russia.
She insisted: “Sanctions must definitely stay in order to preserve the Russian regime weak.”
“But the problem is that sanctions are often void of loopholes. Every country can bypass sanctions by using countries like Iran, for example. Public pressure on companies that aid countries in evading sanctions is one way to stop this.
Kambiz Ghafouri (director of KGM Media) was another speaker. He said that Iran, which is a smaller country than Russia can help Russia evade sanctions. The answer is yes.
It has 40 years of experience in this type of thing, and has been successful in countering the sanctions in the past. This means that Russia could connect to international markets via Iran if it happens.
He said that the sanctions are causing hardship for Iranians and that the regime is not well-liked by Iranians. We, the West, need to be more aware of the Iranian violations. Then, things might start to change.
Are these countries interconnected? They are not equal, and Russia is stronger and more powerful than Iran, but they are interconnected and Iran is helping. It has sent drones to Russia recently, which were used in the conflict in Ukraine.
He said that war would have consequences on a major nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). He said that Iran was willing to accept the terms until the invasion of Ukraine.
He said that Iran then refused to sign the agreement and raised its demands in close coordination with Russia.
“The West is rightly afraid of Iran having access to a nuke weapon, but its attempts to stop Iran have not been fruitful so far.”
He said, “If the West wishes to stop Russian aggression through sanctions, it cannot continue giving cash to Iran’s ‘brother’.”
“If a country wishes to avoid sanctions, then the dark markets are a safe haven. Multi-dimensional strategies that include closer monitoring of sanctions are more effective.
“There is an alliance among these countries, so we need to devise a strategy to break these links. Sanctions have hurt Iran’s regime but not its citizens.
He also stated that Magnitsky laws would “ensure that sanctions are hit the regime”.
The European Foundation for Democracy, based in Brussels, organized the event.
This article is shared: