‘We told you so’: EU reaps bitter harvest of siding with US in sanctions row – Russia’s UN envoy
The wave of anti-Russian sanctions coming from Washington is “unprecedented, baseless and illegal,” said Nebenzia, who is Russia’s new Permanent Representative to the UN.
He added that the EU should blame itself for becoming a victim of the side-effects of the US policy toward Russia as it previously followed in Washington’s footsteps as regards to sanction policy.
“Ironically, the EU together with US implemented illegal sanctions against Russia and now it could be a victim of those restrictions as the result of these sanctions. This situation can be described as: We told you so,” the diplomat said.
Moscow took its time before responding with countermeasures in the hopes the US authorities would change its ways, Nebenzia added. The Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday ordered the American Embassy to scale down its staff and halt the use of a retreat and a storage facility in Moscow.
“We did not do it out of the blue. It was a response to the previous administration’s measures that were taken on the eve of 2017 when the United States sent out 35 Russian diplomats and basically robbed us of our property, which belongs to us legally,” Nebenzia said, adding that the legislation about to be signed into law by US President Trump was the last straw that breached the limit of Moscow’s patience.
“We repeatedly warned our American colleagues that our patience would run thin one day. And this happened now… We were trying to refrain from tit-for-tat for a long time enough to allow our American partners to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, it did not happen,” the diplomat said.
As for why Moscow decided to act now, Nebenzia explained that “with the adoption by the US Congress of the resolution which legitimizes in particular the seizure of our property, we had no choice but to reciprocate.”
Besides drawing a strong condemnation from Moscow, the US move also sparked anger among Washington’s European allies, who slammed the measure threatening to derail joint EU-Russia energy projects as unilateral and violating international law. The part of sanctions that may hamper the construction of Nordstream II gas pipeline has been of a special concern to EU leaders, who have warned of counter-sanctions to compensate for the potential harm to European companies involved.
Nebenzia spoke to journalists after presenting his credentials to UN Secretary General António Guterres on Friday shortly after being appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to serve as the country’s new ambassador to the United Nations. Nebenzia replaces the prominent Russian diplomat Vitaly Churkin, who died of a heart attack in February a day before turning 65.
In his welcoming remarks, Guterres described Churkin as “the man whom I admired enormously” and one of “most brilliant diplomats ever, any country, anywhere in the world.”
The UN chief then highlighted the role of Russia as that of “an important pillar of multilateral system,” with which he strives to build “very deep and effective cooperation in all aspects of the actions of the United Nations.”
Stressing the need for reform of the UN institutions, Nebenzia said Russia would put all its efforts into creating a broad anti-terrorist coalition on the basis of the organization.
“This is our main task and one of the main priorities of the UN actions. So far, such a coalition, unfortunately, has not been created, I will tell you bluntly – we are not to blame for this. But we are heading in this direction. The process of establishing an anti-terrorist architecture is under way,” he said.
Weighing in on the poor state of US-Russia relations, the Russian diplomat said that the relations appear to be at one of the lowest points in history, “perhaps, worse than even during the Cold War.”
However, despite the situation that “does not create optimism,” Nebenzia added that “the task of diplomats is building bridges under any circumstances. We will cooperate. Americans cannot go without us, and us without them. This is an objective reality.”