By Paul Goble
Nearly a year ago, Moscow came up with a list of countries it deemed “unfriendly” to Russia. Many were surprised that it included only two countries – the United States and the Czech Republic – and immediately began campaigning to add other countries and to impose costs on those so listed.
But despite these efforts, Moscow did not take the first step or create rules for the second, responding in an ad hoc way instead – see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/04/russias-unfriendly-countries-list.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/05/moscow-set-to-add-baltic-countries.html. Now, however, the Kremlin has announced plans to do both.
Putin has ordered the Russian government to come up with a new expanded list of “unfriendly” countries and suggested that at least as a temporary measure, Russians will be able to pay their debts to anyone in those countries in rubles rather than in hard currency, something that could cost these countries a lot (vz.ru/news/2022/3/6/1147257.html).
Moscow political analyst Marat Bashirov says the new list won’t be anything like the former because “now it is perfectly clear that we are all in a new world. That which was the case ten days ago and that which is the case now are two very different worlds” (vz.ru/politics/2022/3/6/1147287.html).
He says he would lead the list with Great Britain and many European countries but would not include the US immediately as this list is “a warning” rather than an act of retaliation. Russian foreign policy expert argues that in the composition of the list, Moscow must not follow a one-size-fits-all approach, especially given how rapidly the situation is changing.
And Aleksey Martynov, head of the Moscow Institute for the Newest States, says that together with the list of unfriendly countries who will be punished when they seek to get back into the Russian market when sanctions end there should be a list of “friendly” countries that did not take part in the sanctions regime and so should get preferences on their expansion or return.