Fyodor Lukyanov: "The West is ready to lift the sanctions, but not to recognize Crimea"

The main theme of the agenda of relations between Russia and the West for the last two years, the issue of the recognition of Crimea and the Russian sanctions over Crimea joining Russia, took secondary place in 2016 due to the beginning of the co-ordinated fight against terrorist groups in Syria. The world is gradually getting used to the fact that Crimea has been integrated into the Russian state, and the severity of the controversy surrounding this issue comes to naught. Vestnik Kavkaza talked with the editor-in-chief of the magazine ‘Russia in Global Affairs’, Fyodor Lukyanov, about how realistic the prospects of the official recognition of Crimea Russian are and the lifting of the anti-Russian sanctions 

- How far has the West gone in its readiness to recognize Crimea as Russian the lifting of the anti-Russian sanctions?

- It is too early to talk about the readiness of the West to accept Crimea as Russian. There were one or two regional declarations of the lands and at the provincial level. The parliaments of France and Italy have adopted resolutions on the need to end the sanctions policy, not about the recognition of Crimea, moreover, it was about the more recent packages of sanctions imposed, not immediately after the annexation of Crimea, but after the outbreak of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Yet no serious politicians in the West have put the issue of recognition of Crimea as Russian, and according to the sanctions imposed for the annexation of Crimea, no changes are expected (although they are more symbolic, or relate to the residents of  Crimea, which, of course, is an absolute violation of all moral norms).

Really, a more or less promising discussion of the lifting of sanctions is on the agenda today, the sanctions which were introduced in connection with the war in the east of Ukraine and the downed Malaysian Boeing. Perhaps the situation is gradually moving towards the abolition of these restrictions, but they are on a completely different level of decision-making – at the executive level of separate states, which, respectively, will influence the decisions in Brussels. This does not concern Crimea, that is, if some sanctions are lifted, they are not going to be the Crimean sanctions.

- How soon will the West approach the lifting of the anti-Russian sanctions?

- When the lifting of the sanctions begins, if it happens, as some expect, at the end of this year or early next year or later, it depends on the situation, what will happen in the east of Ukraine. This is, of course, about the European sanctions, there is no sense in speaking about the US sanctions: I think there are no chances for the lifting of the US sanctions. Firstly, the West believes that there is no reason for this, and secondly, it is now generally not the main topic for them. Some shifts are possible after the election, if the president is Donald Trump – although I would not overestimate his stature and that he would not shift his current rhetoric to what he will do as a president. Furthermore, in my opinion, the probability of his winning is low, and the appointment of Hillary Clinton will mean not only an extension of the current sanctions, but also a significant probability of new ones.

- Overall, how relevant is the issue of Crimea and sanctions for the West today?

- Syria, of course, is in first place in the relations between Russia and the West. The Syrian conflict is the top issue in the hierarchy of priorities, both American and European, since it is now closely associated with the migration crisis in Europe. The Ukrainian issue has "slipped" down, so we are not waiting for any worsening in the Ukrainian direction. The current sanctions, as I have said, will not be lifted and new ones will not be introduced, providing no cataclysms happen, of course. De facto, everyone understands that Crimea has been tightly integrated into the structure of Russia a, most likely, nothing can be done about it – but de jure, no one will recognize this for a long time, not only the West, but also the East. Formally, neither China nor India, nor Iran, nor the other countries recognize Crimea as Russian. As a result, I think, there will not be any changes.

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