US sanctions against Russia may lead to the end of partnership

The introduction of sanctions by the USA’s State Department against Russian state companies Rosoboronexport and Sukhoi, results from Washington’s obvious discontent with Russian politics.

The official justification for this step is that the companies have violated a six-year-old American law on non-proliferation with relation to Iran, which forbids collaboration with this country in the area of the provision of weapons of mass destruction. From now on, the USA State Corporation forbids sale to the sanctioned contries and the purchase of any kind of products from them.

Two Russian state companies can hardly be blamed for helping Iran to produce weapons of mass destruction. At any rate, the contract settled at the end of July by Rosoboronexport with Iran ’s Ministry of Defense for the repair and modernization of 30 front-line Su-24 bomber planes clearly does not fall under that clause. It is difficult to classify these planes, supplied to Tehran at the beginning of the 1990s, as a means of delivering weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, this particular contract, (for the sum of 200 million dollars), made by the company Sukhoi, has become, in the opinion of the Russian defense service, a pretext for introducing sanctions against the Russian companies.

In connection with this, in Russian VPK circles, it has been suggested that in fact Russia has been punished for the recent contract agreeing to supply Venezuela with 24 Su-30 fighter planes, which are to replace American F-16 fighter planes currently to be found amongst Caracas military equipment. Russia has settled other large-scale contracts with Venezuela agreeing, for example, to supply the country with around 100 thousand Kalashnikov machine-guns and build a factory in Venezuela for their production. The total sum for all the deals made with the two countries in connection with military equipment is in the region of 3 billion dollars, which has made Moscow greatest supplier of arms for Caracas. Washington has asked Moscow multiple times to decline from making these deals, but the request has not been fulfilled.

However, the main factor that has prompted the USA to move from criticizing Moscow to punishing it is most likely more profound. According to Kommersant, it seems that the issue is not that Russia has annoyed America with any one concrete move, but rather a general discontent with Russia ’s recent policies.

The introduction of measures by the State Department is not simply a punishment for some Russian companies. The American sanctions against the state companies Rosobornexport and Sukhoi constitute an indirect attack from the USA on Russian state authority and an expression of their attitude to Russia ’s external politics.

How Russia will reply

Speaking in football terms, the Americans have moved the ball onto the Russian half of the field and are now awaiting a reaction from Russia. It is clear that the declaration made by the Ministry of Defense on Saturday was not Moscow’s final say on the matter. It does not allow a conclusion to be made as to how the Kremlin will react to the American attack: whether it will try to minimize the damage to the two-sided relations and refrain from reciprocal measures or begin to openly seek revenge.

Aside from the fate of the negotiations on the Stockman gas field (controlled by Gazprom, American companies are laying claim to the mine workings), Russia’s decision on Aeroflot’s purchase of 22 long-haul planes for 3 billion dollars may perform the role of litmus paper. At first, the company was considering buying Boeing 787 planes, however in recent times, Aeroflot has begun to favor the European Airbus A350. The day before, according to a source familiar with the plans of Boeing and Aeroflot, this week, President of Boeing James McNair or one of his main representatives was expected to arrive in Moscow. The sides were supposed to make an announcement on Aeroflot’s main decision to obtain long-haul Boeing 787 planes. The Russian campaign informed that the final choice of supplier would depend on the decision of the shareholders, who should consider all the factors.

It cannot be excluded that the American sanctions on Rosoboronexport and Sukhoi will become one of these factors, which the airline’s main shareholder, the Russian state, will certainly bear in mind.

Translated by Leila Wilmers

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Author`s name Alex Naumov