The environment of tit-for-tat sanctions instituted by the European Union and the United States over Russia's annexation of Crimea and its continued meddling in eastern Ukraine affected Estonian businesses in 2014, especially in the agricultural sector.
Counter-sanctions levied by the Kremlin after EU and US sanctions on Russia hit the milk (50 million euros of export business) and fishing industries (15 million euros) of Estonia particularly hard, and both those industries have had to scramble to come up with new markets, with only moderate success.
However, it appears that the US has been working behind the scenes recently to change its relationship with Russia, one that would allow the country to escape some of the sanctions that the US, at least, imposed on the country in 2014. But the overtures have met with little success.
According to a story written by Josh Rogin of Bloomberg, President Barack Obama made a decision following a review of US policy towards Russia in December to look for ways to work with the country, including offering Russian President Vladimir Putin a way out over the current situation in Ukraine.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, in several conversations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, has floated an offer to Russia which would have Russia stick to the September cease-fire agreement negotiated in Minsk and cease direct military support for Ukrainian separatists. In exchange, it would set the path for a partial lifting of some economic sanctions.
The issue of the Crimean annexation would be tabled for the time being, and some of the initial sanctions that were put in place after Crimea’s annexation would be kept in place.
"I don’t think that anybody at this point is under the impression that a wholesale reset of our relationship is possible at this time, but we might as well test out what they are actually willing to do,” a senior US administration official told Rogin. “Our theory of this all along has been, let's see what’s there. Regardless of the likelihood of success."
However, the Russian leadership, Rogin reports, have been rejecting the US overtures, both in public and private. Diplomatic sources said Lavrov has refused to even discuss Kerry’s conditions for partial easing of sanctions. And some experts believe that any plan to warm relations is unlikely to succeed because it does not have the full support of either Putin or Obama.
"It’s very clear that between the Putin Kremlin and the Obama White House there is a very bad chemistry. Its not a question of simply distrust, it’s a question of intense dislike between the two leaders," said Dimitri Simes, president of the Center for the National Interest.
Editor: S. Abel