Bid rigging: Trump, Merkel, and Putin want to close the issue of sanctions

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

Source : 112 Ukraine

After three years of geopolitical confrontation the US, the EU, and Russia try to normalize relations at the expense of the interests of the vast majority, including Ukraine
12:21, 30 January 2017

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The new US president Donald Trump plans to have a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to the Reuters news agency source, the heads of the US and Germany will discuss the prospect of the lifting the existing anti-Russian sanctions. They are one of the problematic issues of modern Russian-American relations. Fabrice Pothier, Senior Researcher of the Atlantic Council analytical center, admits that the Republican administration had already prepared a draft act on the abolition of anti-Russian sanctions. Donald Trump is interested to discuss with Vladimir Putin the conditions for the lifting of sanctions and the normalization of relations between the United States, Russia, and the EU, which have deteriorated against the backdrop of unresolved armed conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. And although at the moment the White House claim, saying that it is too early to speak about the cancellation, no one cannot prohibit to prepare the ground for the parties.

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Western business interests

The issue of abolition of anti-Russian sanctions is bound to development of cooperation of business circles of the United States, the EU and Russia in the future. European and American oil companies that implement joint projects with the company "Rosneft" are interested in lifting of sanctions. The sanctions have complicated the development of oil and gas fields for the Shell (US) in Western Siberia, to Total (France) and of ExxonMobil (USA) on Sakhalin and in the Kara Sea. The sanctions have reduced the inflow of funds and technology in the oil and gas sector of the Russian Federation. Because of them, ExxonMobil lost US $ 1 billion.

In addition, Donald Trump appointed the former chairman of the board of directors ExxonMobil Rex Tillerson to the post of US Secretary of State. Nonetheless Russia considers him the most inconvenient top manager of ExxonMobil, who is not inclined to make concessions, Rex Tillerson is aware of the potential undiscovered oil and gas deposits. Donald Trump may sacrifice the legacy of the Obama for the sake of meeting the interests of the American oil industry. According to the former Russian presidential advisor Andrei Illarionov, who relied on the allegedly released excerpts of a US intelligence report in exchange for the abolition of the anti-Russian sanctions the company "Rosneft" offered Donald Trump transfer 19.5% of its shares (about 10.5 billion euros).

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Anti-Russian sanctions are not beneficial to the Western banks that have worked in Russia and lost US $ 2 billion. The sanctions cut off from Russian companies access to western finance. The greatest losses in the Russian market have been faced by KBCGroup banks (US $ 691 million.), BarclaysBank (US $ 625 million.), The Bank of Cyprus (US $ 443.8 million.).

European industrialists are interested in lifting of sanctions. According to the French CEPII research center, as a result of these restrictions, France, Poland, the Netherlands, Japan have lost about 1 billion dollars. Italy lost 7 billion euros. Losses of German industrialists amounted to € 13.5 billion in 2014-15. According to the Coldiretti association of Italian farmers, farmers lost about 600 million euros due counter-sanctions and Russian ban on imports of meat, sausages, fish and seafood, vegetables, fruits, dairy products from the EU.

Fighting against ISIS under the Stars and Stripes

As one of the conditions for lifting sanctions, Donald Trump might offer Russia to take on the role of cleaning the Islamic extremists in the Middle East in US interests. The lifting of sanctions is a kind of payment for ensuring that Russia's role as "cannon fodder" in the fight against ISIS in Syria. The militants control 60.4 thousand sq. km of Syria and Iraq, including a number of oil fields. During the US anti-terrorist operation and its coalition partners have carried out 10 thousand airstrikes on ISIS positions in Iraq and 6 thousand airstrikes in Syria. Russia in its military operations in Syria, mainly supporting President Bashar Assad with moderate Islamist opposition. In practice, the fight against ISIS at the moment is not the main task of Russia in Syria. Donald Trump expects that after the lifting of the sanctions manages to persuade Russia to join the anti-terrorist coalition.

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Apparently, Russia is also considering options to work with the administration of Donald Trump in Syria. Despite the fact that recently Russia and Turkey hold joint military operations against radical Islamists in Syria, Moscow has offered some preferences to Kurdish separatists, who are considered a threat to Ankara, equivalent to Islamic extremism. During a meeting in Astana on the peaceful settlement Russia presented the draft of a new Syrian constitution. The document envisages federalization of Syria as a separate entity, allocated territories inhabited by Kurds get broad powers.

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For the US, the Kurdish Pêşmerge rebel groups are the main military and political ally in the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. In fact, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin can share their sphere of influence in Syria, in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. The United States turned a blind eye to the Assad regime, who formally continued to rule, and sacrifice the interests of the Syrian opposition, which has failed to achieve get the power. Russia, in spite of building close relations with Turkey, admits US interests in Syria by establishing a Kurdish autonomy. The Kremlin can stop the bombing of the Syrian opposition to simulate a peaceful settlement in the country.

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Counterweight to China

US President is interested to use lifting of sanctions in order to restore full economic and trade cooperation between the West and Russia and thus make Moscow to abandon the "turn to the East." Following the intensification of Russian-Chinese business contacts, including the construction of gas pipeline "Power of Siberia", it will be a good time to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the military-political sphere. By the normalization of relations with Russia, Donald Trump expects to create a counterweight to China's growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region and to prevent the formation of a military-political alliance between Moscow and Beijing, antagonistic to Washington. US deliberately form an image of an external enemy in the face of China, in order to expose the Russian aggression in Ukraine as a less of a threat to international security.

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Administration of Republicans, like their predecessors Democrats, is more worried about the rise of China's geopolitical position in the Asia-Pacific region (APR). US considers APR as traditional sphere of their interests since the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, China claims the disputed among Southeast Asian islands in the South China Sea, the Japanese Senkaku archipelago. Chinese military set up military bases and airfields on artificial islands in the South China Sea. Celestial conducts economic expansion in the Asia-Pacific region. The turnover of China and ASEAN member countries (Brunei, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines) is $ 380 billion, Japan - 303.3 billion dollars (US Turnover and Japan is $193,6 billion), with Australia -$ 155 billion. Beijing is the largest trade partner of Japan and Australia. As part of the Fund's investment cooperation between China, Beijing strengthens its economic presence in South-East Asia, by investing in infrastructure, energy and mining.

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"Cold World" in Ukraine

Apparently, in exchange for the lifting of sanctions Donald Trump expects Russia to make a compromise in Ukraine. The systematic violation of the ceasefire in Donbas. Targeted non-compliance with the Minsk agreements. All these things mean that the Kremlin is not interested to resolve the conflict in Donbas, but rather uses the constant attacks and provocations to weaken the economy of Ukraine, the psychological pressure against Bankova. Moscow wants Kyiv to return to the channel of its foreign policy.

Instead of tightening sanctions and bringing Russian peace enforcement to the end, Donald Trump will try to persuade Putin to reach a compromise in Ukraine. The basis of such a compromise is likely to be taken from former US Secretary of Ukraine's development plan Henry Kissinger, who is in contact with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Formally, the US does not recognize Crimea Russian territory in order not to create a precedent for further acts of aggression against sovereign states. US can close their eyes to the annexation of Crimea and demand that Russia return the peninsula of Ukraine. Russia, in turn, will have to withdraw its troops and mercenaries from the occupied territories and return the occupied areas in the legal field of Ukraine, which will announce the international neutrality. In the worst case, Russia will defend the preservation of the Russian military contingent in the Donbas and freezing of military conflict in the Transnistrian scenario.

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Ukraine does not benefit from this situation, because we will not be able to restore our territorial integrity. At the same time, Ukraine appeared not in the best light before Donald Trump during the presidential race, and after the announcement of election results. Lots of politicians supported Hillary Clinton, a political rival of Donald Trump. Criticism of the new president is voiced by Ukrainian officials. Sensational scandals of electronic declarations, acts of corruption.

Consequences of telephone collusion

Consequences of the telephone collusion on the abolition of anti-Russian sanctions and the normalization of relations between the US, the EU, and Russia can have ambiguous consequences. Donald Trump may encounter a backlash in the US Congress, as well as the supranational EU institutions. In both houses of the US Congress (Senate, House of Representatives), there is bipartial support of extension and tightening of anti-Russian sanctions. According to the US National Security Strategy, Russian hacker attack on the servers of the Democratic Party can be regarded as a violation of US sovereignty. Because US lawmakers are not configured to support the lifting of the sanctions, as they see Russia as a threat to US national security.

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The group of US senators, including Republican John McCain and Democrat Ben Cardin, has prepared a draft law "Act of 2017 on combating the hostile behavior of Russia." Senators offer not to limit with the existing anti-Russian sanctions against certain companies and individuals, and go to the general economic sanctions in response to a Russian cyber attacks against the US and the aggressive policy against sovereign states. The act prohibits the recognition of the Russian territory of Crimea. The new package of sanctions hurts the oil and gas sector of the Russian Federation. The sanctions can hit any company (even the US non-residents), which has invested $ 20 million or more in areas directly or indirectly related to the development of oil and gas fields. The draft "Act of 2017 on combating the hostile behavior of Russia" can enter into force and become federal law status without the approval of the president, if 2/3 of the Senate and the US House of Representatives vote for it.

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EU officials have not gone away from US congressmen. The EU Council formally extended the anti-Russian sanctions until the end of July 2017. EU extends anti-Russian sanctions as long as Russia does not comply with the Minsk agreement and does not restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Although the European moods are such that the majority of countries are happy to lift the sanctions disadvantageous to them.

Hypothetically, if Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, and Vladimir Putin will manage to agree on the lifting of sanctions and the agreement will receive legislative support, the main beneficiaries will be the business circles of America and Europe. Western businessmen do not care, at what stage is the settlement of the military conflict in Ukraine and Syria. They see Russia as a large market for export-import operations and investments. Three years after geopolitical confrontation the US, the EU, and Russia will make efforts to reach an agreement on normalization of relations at the expense of the interests of the vast majority, including Ukraine.

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