01/31/2018, 09.20
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America’s 'Putin-List' of pointless sanctions

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The list includes114 members of the administration, and 91 "oligarchs", close to President Putin. The excluded fear a loss of prestige in the eyes of the Russians themselves. Putin makes fun of his not being included. Public opinion even more compacted around its supreme leader. Mikhail Fedotov: "It’s as if they randomly chose names form the phone directory".

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The list of "Putin's men" drawn up by the American Ministry of Finance has provoked mixed reactions in Russia: not only of patriotic pride against the eternal Cold War adversary, but also of surprise and almost disappointment among those, who not having been included, fear losing prestige in the eyes of the Russians themselves.

The blacklist was in fact expected, given that it has been a draft law since the Obama administration, and its effect on the sanctions procedures in reality will depend on the relationship between the current Trump and Putin administrations, pending the re-election of the latter next March 18th. One of the effects, moreover, could be precisely its influence on the Russian electoral campaign, in parallel with the many accusations of interference by the Russians in turn in the elections of Western countries.

The list includes 114 members of the administration, and 91 "oligarchs" deemed close to the president, who also ironically expressed his "disappointment" for not being personally included on the black list of "enemies of America". The Russian commentators, however, observe a certain superficiality in the drafting of the list, which appears to be inconsistent with recent developments in Russian politics. In fact, it does not include names like that of Ella Panfilova the president of electoral commission, the members of the Supreme Court, the leaders of the parliamentary fractions and practically all the regional administrators, who expected to be included.

The American report is divided into three parts: executives of the presidential administration, the government with its various components and the "other political exponents", including the Parliamentary  Speaker Vjacheslav Volodin and Senate Speaker Valentina Matveenko, and also the leaders services and 19 large state-owned companies. The president of the Central Bank, Elvira Nabudullina, and even the heads of the parties represented in parliament, are not included, except those of the party of the president’s "United Russia" from which Putin has distanced himself to become a leader above the parties. The closest collaborators of the president have been included, such as councilor Venjamin Jakovlev, his representative to the Constitutional Court Mikhail Krotov and the head of the Human Rights Council Mikhail Fedotov. Like the latter, several figures of “liberal” repute have been included, to indicate that ideologies or political sympathies are not of concern, but only personal loyalty to Putin and his actions against international law, such as the Crimean annexation. According to some commentators, in fact, many names have been inserted or forgotten by mistake, revealing a serious approximation in the drafting of the document.

The impression is that the Americans wanted to single out those political and economic representatives who supported Putin’s policies, but were unable to distinguish between those favorable or opposed (in fact almost non-existent), they somewhat haphazardly drew together the list, trying not to be limited to any specific sector. The main effect was a general reaction of solidarity of the excluded towards the included, compacting even more the public opinion around the figure of the supreme leader. After the publication of the list the presidents of three parliamentary committees, financial market (Anatolij Aksakov), tax authorities (Andrej Makarov) and education (Vjacheslav Nikonov), refused to fly to the US to participate in the traditional "National Prayer Breakfast" held in early February with the participation of President Trump together with the leaders of the religions to which they were invited.

Some saw in the publication of the American report an attempted interference in the Russian presidential campaign. The Deputy Chairman of the Senate Defense Commission, Franz Klinzevich, told Kommersant newspaper on January 30 that "The report on the Kremlin is intended to provoke a negative reaction among the population against the Russian leadership, against the president, and to create problems on the eve of the elections ". Boris Titov, the only presidential candidate nominated in the Putin-list, was very pleased with his presence on the list: "I am the only candidate who does not present populist recipes in economics, and now the choice is clear: either support one of the candidates not present on the list and therefore not unpleasant to the West, or use common sense and use new indigenous economic weapons against the sanctions war. The strong are feared, the weak are put on a lead, "said Titov.

The influential head of the Human Rights Committee, Mikhail Fedotov, also issued a statement to Kommersant, stating that " we expected more expertise from the American Ministry of Finance, with a list based on analytical materials and secret information; instead they randomly chose names from the telephone directory... Russia and the US are leading actors in international politics, responsible for the fate of the world and must try to solve problems, not trivialize them ".

The war of sanctions, in short, is likely to turn into a soap opera, waiting for a real showdown, or better still the beginning of a true dialogue between East and West.

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