Playing with the Gallery?

The Norwegian Helsinki  Committee has exposed the hypocrisy of some western countries in respect of sanctions imposed by America and European Union against Russia. The Committee has shown how European businesses and third countries are actively circumventing sanctions, providing Russia with sanctioned goods and thus helping its war effort while showering abuses on Russia for ‘war crimes’ all the time.

On February 25, 2022, a day after Russia undertook a full-scale “special military operation” in Ukraine, the European Union and America introduced unprecedented sanctions against Moscow. In the following months, the sanctions regime against Russia was expanded with eight more installments, hitting its most valuable exports to Europe –oil and gas–and curbing its access to products that could be used in its war on Ukraine.

But despite the wide-ranging measures imposed and Brussel’s commitment to uphold them, some observers are now claiming that they have failed.

The Russian economy appears more resilient than expected and the Russian military retains the capacity to destroy civilian infrastructure and military targets .What is more, sanctioned goods are still finding their way to Russia and to the battlefield in Ukraine, making the mockery of the sanctions strategy of the West.

If the sanctions are not working the way they ought to, it is because some European countries are actively undermining them. A recently released report by Norway-based risk consultancy Corisk reveals how that is done.

Its analysis of customs data from 12 EU countries, Norway, the UK, the US and Japan shows that the circumvention of export sanctions on Russia amounted to an astonishing 8 billion euros ($8.5bn) in 2022.

Of the countries studied, Germany appears to be the largest exporter of sanctioned goods to Russia; the second largest is Lithuania. The two provide half of the Western goods Moscow should not have access to, officially after imposition of sanctions. This is the real world of capitalist market economy.

The research reveals that European businesses, and especially German ones, use third countries to sell their products to Russia. This is apparent from the analysis of the export data for sanctioned goods, including luxury items such as jewellery and perfumes, cutting-edge technology, like advanced semiconductors and quantum computers, machinery and transportation equipment.

In early 2022, Western exports of these goods to Russia plummeted, but to its neighbours, they skyrocketed. Nearly half of this “parallel export” is channelled through Kazakhstan and the rest is divided between Georgia, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and others.

Importantly, the list of sanctioned products includes dual-use goods that can be used for both civilian and military purposes, such as drones, vehicles and certain chemicals.

Germany’s export to Russia of diesel trucks in this weight class dropped to zero by May 2022. However, the sales of these same trucks to Armenia increased exponentially and reached levels five times what Germany sold to Russia previously by September.

Polyamides are another dual-use product that has made its way to Russia, breaking the ban on exports. These chemicals are used in the manufacturing of body armour, military pilot flight vests and many other military and civilian items. Until June 2022, Germany exported virtually no polyamides to Kazakhstan. After the sanctions were introduced, Kazakhstani demand for these chemicals exploded and by October it was importing 200 tonnes from German producers.

Lithuania has also been exporting sanctioned goods to Russia, but through another route–Belarus. ‘They throw the Kremlin out of the front door but Moscow sneaks back in through the rear window’.


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Vol 55, No. 52, Jun 25 - Jul 1, 2023