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Mihhail Lotman: Sergey Lavrov and the effect of sanctions on Russia

Mihhail Lotman.
Mihhail Lotman. Source: ERR

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's threat to sever ties with the European Union is not as categorical as it has been made out to be in the press, Mihhail Lotman writes.

In truth, Lavrov wrapped his threat in two lawyers of compromise, saying that "we proceed from being prepared." His position is nothing new in that we have heard such statements from Russia before, while what is different this time is the tone. The Russian foreign ministry has not allowed itself to come off this aggressive towards the EU before.

I would point out two important aspects of the Lavrov interview.

Firstly, Russia's mantra so far has been that Western sanctions are not having an effect. Unfortunately, it has been repeated by some European and Estonian politicians and commentators.

However, it is not true as admitted by Lavrov in his interview: "If we see new sanctions (as we have felt on numerous occasions now) in certain sectors that threaten our economy, including in its most sensitive aspects."

This means that prior sanctions have hit Russia hard, with Lavrov's interview a clear indication that Russia is vulnerable to sanctions and fears new ones.

Secondly. EU High Representative Josep Borrell's Moscow visit was an embarrassing failure.

He went to Moscow with the aim of improving the dialogue between Russian and the European Union. Borrell was downright obsequious at the press conference. But the result of the visit was just the opposite. The relationship between Moscow and the EU deteriorated sharply.

Various EU structures – led by the European Parliament – reacted firmly. [Estonian MEP] Riho Terras' initiative for Borrell to be removed from office has had an effect. That is the European Union's reaction to Lavrov's aggressive demeanor in Moscow.

Lavrov's interview in turn was a reaction to a reaction. His poker face is unmistakable. Even though Moscow does not plan to back down, the cards he is holding are not good. Europe must stand its ground.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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