‘The West has got itself into a pickle’ over its policy on Russia

French farmers from western France regions drive their tractors on the A10 motorway, outside Paris, September 3, 2015. © Jacky Naegelen
The West should not treat Russia as a pariah state, but cooperate with it on a number of issues, including Syria and ISIS, says Scottish activist and commentator Chris Bambery. He adds that anti-Russia sanctions are useless as they do not damage the Russian economy.

The EU reportedly extended sanctions imposed on a number of individuals and firms in Russia and eastern Ukraine until March 15, 2016. The USA has imposed sanctions on a number of Russian companies thought to be involved in activities which, from the US point of view, breach the Nonproliferation Act in regards to Iran and Syria.

READ MORE: EU set to extend sanctions on Russian and Ukrainian individuals, firms – reports

RT: Why are the Western countries continuing their policy of sanctions and why is this policy dangerous for the West itself?

Chris Bambery: Well, it is puzzling, and it’s very puzzling why the European Union is influencing for the sanctions against Russia over its supposed involvement in this war in eastern Ukraine at the time when there is a ceasefire deal, which is doing quite well. And we have seen a very important fall in amount of fighting and violence in eastern Ukraine. The second point is why it is damaging to the West, particularly Germany, which has a major involvement, but also Britain, where, you know, for instance, Russia has got involvement in the city of London. They do not seem to be putting those economic considerations ahead, at the top of agenda. Could it be that they are bowing to the American pressure on this? I think, largely, it is. But, secondly, as well, I think there is a point here that the West has got itself into a pickle over the way it portrays and it is almost accepting this idea that the Putin regime is on the par with the country like North Korea, one of the worst dictatorships since Saddam’s in Iraq. And it is clearly not the case. And most authorities in the West on Russia would turn around and say …the way the West is reacting to Russia and portraying Russia is frankly ludicrous. And it needs Russia’s help in a whole series of levels over what is happening in Syria, over the fight against ISIL, over the growing refugee crisis. Russia could be a great asset for the West in this. Russia is a part of international community. Why it has been treated as a pariah state when it is sticking by – and the point I think Russia has made today and a number of people have made today over the new American sanctions over the defense deals - by the international law on this. Why it has been treated in this way? And the West seems to get itself in a strange situation when it is trying to portray Russia as being axis of evil in the world today which does not fit the reality.

READ MORE: New sanctions: US targets scores of Russian, Chinese, Syrian firms over Iran

RT: Are the sanctions effective and really harmful to the Russian economy?

CB: Well, of course the removal of the sanctions would be a great step forward. But we have Vladimir Putin going to New York to take part in an international conference there in the United Nations on the fight against ISIL despite the sanctions being put in place. But I think it is important turn around and say that clearly the sanctions have not damaged the Russian economy that much. Clearly, Russia has been able to rebalance itself, particularly by re-orientating itself on China. It does not need to worry too much about the sanctions. For instance, American sanctions over defense deals with Russia – Russia does not do defense deals with the United States, it has got no involvement in this sphere. That is not going to damage. So, in a way Russia can just shrug it off, and carry on as before and actually say ‘Look, we are legitimately part of international community, we are going to stand by what we agree, we are going to stand by what we are committed to and so on. And I think, actually, in that sense Russia puts itself in the right in this situation and cast question marks over why America and the EU are continuing down this road of further and further sanctions which are really not working.

 The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.