Alexi Navalny’s case, even without loud sanctions, dealt a blow to Russia’s investment climate and economic attractiveness.
Angela Merkel’s recent meeting with Navalny is not accidental, although it was exclusively secular. Emmanuel Macron and Merkel are two central figures who are the leaders of Russia’s interests in Europe. This is due to close economic ties and joint businesses. And it is not just “Nord Stream-2.” Everything is much more complicated and has been working for more than a century on the principle: war is war, but business is on time. However, in recent weeks, Macron and Merkel’s relations with Putin have deteriorated so much that Russia’s European partners have gone through the media, firstly, a private Putin and Macron conversation and then the revelation of Merkel’s meeting with Navalny. These were signals, and the Kremlin obviously understood them.
The poisoning of Alexei Navalny is just one of many attempts to eliminate Vladimir Putin’s opponents both in Russia and in European countries. It was confirmed that during three such attempts, “Novachok” was used. This is a chemical controlled by the state and subject to an international ban. However, there have been other Russian-related killings, including the poisoning of two Bulgarian businessmen and the shooting of a Georgian citizen in a Berlin park.
These are not the actions of some mythical criminal elements, but part of the Putin regime strategy, which aims to intimidate and silence people who disagree with him and dare to oppose him. Have a look at the fact of how the Russian information machine came to life. More than 1,000 publications about Navalny were posted on official and covert media platforms, and all Russian high-ranking officials got involved and tried to confuse the situation and confuse the audience. During a conversation with colleagues from the Bundestag, Vasily Piskarev, Head of the State Duma Commission investigating foreign interference in Russia’s affairs, stated that the use of provocations in Navalny’s case as an excuse for sanctions and undermining bilateral relations was inadmissible. Provocations!
Putin himself called French President Emmanuel Macron and told him that Navalny had poisoned himself. Macron rightly felt that such a statement offended his intellect. But this tone of conversation fully reflects the plans of the Russian Federation and its confidence that it is allowed to do anything to sow unrest, conduct destructive activities and violate international norms and laws in cases convenient to it. The Russians are lying to the Europeans and expect – even demand – compliance from them.
Europe is tired of lies and threats from Russia. Poland fined Gazprom 29 billion zlotys ($7.6 billion) for the construction of “Nord Stream-2” without the consent of the Polish antitrust authority. European partners of NS-2 (Engie Energy, Uniper, OMV, Shell, and Wintershall) must terminate the partnership agreement with Gazprom and also pay fines of 10% of annual turnover. Of course, in the future Gazprom will appeal the decision of the Polish regulator.
In the light of the sanctions, the International Group of Shipowners’ Mutual Insurance Clubs (IGP & I) has decided not to provide insurance for vessels involved in the construction of the “Nord Stream-2” gas pipeline.
After Germany discovered that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny had been poisoned by “Novachok,” a logical question was raised about the temporary or complete halt to the construction of “Nord Stream-2.” That is why this issue needs to be addressed.
Less radical measures have been taken so far, however, they have not affected Russia’s behavior. Europe needs to significantly increase Russia’s fees for its destructive activities so that the Kremlin decides to stop its criminal activities and stop carrying out hacking attacks on the legislature, filling the media with its disinformation, interfering in elections, and exporting violence. Other joint measures by European countries should be considered, although stopping the construction of “Nord Stream-2” will be a very clear and decisive message to the Kremlin.
The story with Navalny radicalizes the situation with Nord Stream. In fact, European elites must either unequivocally support the project, or freeze and stop it altogether. The story with Navalny reduced to zero the terms and options of Europe’s agreements with Russia. Now they must determine the position here and now. The time has come!
Yuri Fedorenko, Analyst, Expert on Public Communication