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July 1, European Council has extended the economic sanctions against Russia by 31 January 2017. The decision immediately provoked a flurry of polar comments: someone found it mundane and obvious, and someone found it not that trivial as it might seem at first glance. Some people said that this is expression of solidarity with Ukraine, and they are right. Someone believes it is the result of intra consensus, this is also right position. In any case, apart from the sanctions, pressure against Russia continues, and this decision is an unequivocal answer to those who believe that the EU is in deep crisis and that it is just unable to do something.
However, we should avoid any kind of the self-deception. The atmosphere in the EU is different from the one that was two years ago. It does not mean that Europe is "tired" of Ukraine, or the minds are changed about modern Russia and its actions. Some challenges could be coped with at the European institutional level, but the problems of migration and terrorist threats have become direct threat to the lives of the EU citizens. They have changed the established way of people’s life and their perception of the reality.
Unfortunately, in the nearest future, Europe will have only a limited impact on the solution of these problems, taking into consideration its capabilities and difficultness to ensure a unified position among 28 sovereign states. Against this backdrop, Russia, being really interested in deepening differences within the EU, successfully creates the false impression that the problems of migration and terrorism can be solved only by dealing with Russia. Unfortunately, many in Europe, consciously or unconsciously, fall into this trap.
National elections in a number of European countries that will take place next year would have a significant impact on the situation. Various political forces are seeking to secure broad support for the business communities, which, in turn, are interested in cooperation with Russia. Of course, the losses caused by the Russian countermeasures are noticeable for them, but not critical. Purchasing power in Russia has reduced, and this fact would not satisfy the European manufacturers.
Obviously, Russia is going to use its old proven methods: “buying” the politicians, entire parties or business circles; using a "pocket" pseudo-experts and PR-managers; manipulating the fears and sentiments of the Europeans.
The decision about European sanction gives a clear signal: Ukraine is of crucial importance for the future of the EU. That is why Europe is united with us in order to counter Russian aggression and to struggle for de-occupation of Donbas and Crimea. I am convinced that this solidarity does not mean testing for commitment to common European values, but this is the opportunity to give new impetus to the further development of the EU.
We should not be dreamers. We have to understand that the EU does not consist solely of our friends and sympathizers. There are many rational thinkers or even cynically indifferent people. And many of them will succumb to Russian manipulation.
Europeans associate the sanctions with the Minsk process. Therefore, Ukraine has to preserve its relations with G7 and the European Union to go further in its processes. Our solidarity (and sanctions as one of its components) will help to achieve the goal of the Minsk agreements: get rid of Russia’s troops in Donbas, and prevent it from organizing a parallel reality there. This scenario will be possible if the OSCE gets full access to all the occupied territories of Donbas, establishing international control over the Ukrainian-Russian border. OSCE needs to control the weapons withdrawal in the region, and it would create at least minimally safe environment.
EU sanctions against Russia and assistance of the international community are the way to a better future of Donbas, where this future would be determined by its inhabitants, not by the Kremlin.