''The world situation is being determined by the forces ready to risk a big war''

Political expert Boris Mezhuev about US Treasury's sanctions, which presenting the Russian elite with a difficult challenge

The US Treasury, by imposing sanctions on twenty-four Russian businesspersons and officials, is presenting these people a difficult challenge: to throw off the current political regime in Russia or to stop getting rich, considers Boris Mezhuev, a political expert, publicist. At the same time, the anti-Russian sanctions are only part of the overall pressure exerted by the United States on the signatories of the Iran nuclear deal. Whether Europe will join the 'sanctions of April 6', how the Russian elite miscalculated and why Trump is ready to risk a war — read about this in the interview of Realnoe Vremya with the expert.

Some experts call the new sanctions list of the US Treasury 'fire for effect'. Do you agree with this?

Yes, probably. The current sanctions, unlike the previous ones, are devoid of legal component. This, in a sense, is not a punishment — they do not punish people involved in a certain offense. No one says, for example, Oleg Deripaska is to blame for a particular deed. Figuratively speaking, it is an appeal to the elite: if you continue to cooperate with this regime, you'll be in trouble. Whether you are guilty or not, interfered or not in the internal affairs of the United States — all this does not matter. It is important that you are the beneficiary of the regime. And we won't let you get rich under it with impunity.

In other words, the task is precisely to ensure that the Russian political and economic elite carries out a change of power in your country. Or it is an attempt to force the Russian regime to change its foreign policy.

Can this attempt be called effective?

It had not been effective until now. But previously the sanctions were different. Today, yes, we are talking about falling prices and financial indicators of large Russian companies, in particular Rusal, that is, a system blow on the economy of the country.

I do not know what will follow, but I can assume that the discontent of the economic elite will increase. At any rate, it is naive to assume that all these people will rise as one to defend the regime.

''I think the Russian elite had strongly relied on a change of power in Washington. Deripaska, judging by the fact that Alexey Navalny and Nastya Rybka showed us, really counted on it.'' Photo: kremlin.ru

We see that Russian entrepreneurs are not cooperating with Crimea already today, fearing Crimean sanctions, that some of them even express their unwillingness to finance the defence industry projects, also fearing sanctions. So, the previous sanctions have had some effect. There is no sense of absolute, monolithic unity of the economic elite in the conditions of external pressure.

Why has particularly Oleg Deripaska recently received sensitive blows from different directions, including fresh revelations of Alexander Bastrykin? Is there a possibility that the Russian security forces will take away his business?

I think the Russian elite had strongly relied on a change of power in Washington. Deripaska, judging by the fact that Alexey Navalny and Nastya Rybka showed us, really counted on it. He hoped that as a result of the presidential elections in 2016, a more pragmatic and rational leadership would come to power in the United States. The fact that they badly miscalculated was a shock to them. Because what replaced Obama turned out to be not better, but worse. And this factor, I think, within the Russian elite is not fully understood — because it does not have an alternative strategy.

Therefore, now there will be a difficult stage. Political crisis and disloyal parts of the elite, I think, are a certainty.

How likely is joining of the European Union to the US sanctions of April 6?

One of the tasks of Trump is precisely to connect Europe to the sanctions. I think the development of the story with the use of chemical weapons in Syria is an attempt to ensure this connection. Interference in the internal affairs of the United States, poisoning of Skripals — it's not so 'scary'. They needed something bigger. The Syrian story is good for that. People died there, and human rights organizations will demand to condemn Russia and Iran. And if this doesn't work, another reason will be found.

And what is this development of this scenario fraught with?

The best scenario is that we will understand that we need a certain foreign policy isolation, that the reliance on globalization and entry into Western capitalism does not seem to be justified. That we need to build, relatively speaking, our own house, develop and restructure our economy to make it effective. And this requires political teams.

Now the external situation for Russia is being extremely unfavourable, and the world game is extremely unprofitable. Because the world situation is being determined by the forces with which it is impossible to negotiate. The forces that are ready to risk a big war. And since this is not the best version of events, it is hoped that these forces can be contained by common efforts. The efforts of Russia alone are not enough.

''I think the development of the story with the use of chemical weapons in Syria is an attempt to ensure this connection. Interference in the internal affairs of the United States, poisoning of Skripals — it's not so 'scary'. We needed something bigger. The Syrian story is good for that.'' Photo: kremlin.ru

You have said — the forces ready to risk a big war. How can it develop? Syria is a trigger, followed by escalation and expansion of the conflict in the region?

Yes, Syria is a trigger, then attack on Iran, involvement in the conflict of Russia – for example, attack on our military, then a retaliatory attack. What's next, you know yourself.

It is a Caribbean crisis, if we call things by their proper names. And I don't know if the US can stop in time. Because in 1963 in the White House there was John Kennedy after all, a man in terms of behaviour difficult, but still much more sane than the current US leadership.

In what time frame is this catastrophic scenario possible?

It is clear that it'll be a very difficult spring. Until May 12, when Trump, presumably, will declare withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, he will exercise pressure on all its signatories — Europe, China, Russia. He will fight against everyone like he is already doing. Using different methods: with China – economic ones, with Europe — diplomatic pressure, with the UK — well, there is especially nothing to fight, and with Russia as we see — with the help of sanctions. He will seek to force everyone to review with him the Iran deal. And in the event of common withdrawal from it, to confront Iran with the certainty of diplomatic isolation and then, apparently, to start military actions because Iran will have nothing left but to develop its nuclear program.

In general, either these countries come to their senses and tell the United States: stop hooliganism (which is unlikely), or the world will have to go through hard times. So that then the new leadership of the US came to sort out another debris. Already with the understanding of who can be allowed to state authority and who is not.

By Rustem Shakirov

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