EU sanctions are arbitrary. And immoral. Some Russian oligarchs and companies are sanctioned and some are not. This is not only an ethical or political problem, but above all a catastrophe for our economy. Chancellor Scholz must act.
The patchwork quilt called Russia sanctions must finally come to an end! We are gambling away one of the most important political achievements of the post-war period: the unprecedented unity of the West in dealing with the Russian attack on Ukraine. And what have we made of this unity? A ragged patchwork of sanctions that is morally questionable, politically disastrous and legally unacceptable.
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The point about morality should be clear: the non-sanctioning of an oligarch like Vladimir Potanin, the much too late sanctioning of a Roman Abramovich, the sanctioning of oil while at the same time not sanctioning gas – the list could go on and on – that all that cannot be morally justified at all is obvious. It is also a moral slap in the face to all those who have taken on large and sometimes life-threatening burdens in the German economy in order to save Ukrainian lives, although they were not legally obliged to make these voluntary sacrifices of property.
It should also be clear that it is politically disastrous to act in this way. We are sending a remarkable signal to Moscow that we will leave Mr Potanin unsanctioned and continue to send and continue to send hundreds of millions directly (!) into the hands of the Russian state (and not just the Russian economy) for gas.
Prof. Dr. Viktor Winkler was the global Head of Global Standards Sanctions at Commerzbank and, as a sanctions expert, most recently spoke before the Finance Committee of the German Bundestag. His law firm in Frankfurt am Main, which specializes in legal crisis management, is currently advising numerous managing directors and board members on the Russia sanctions.
But legally? Is it not also proportionate what the EU and the West are doing here, is it not the clever idea of the so-called “targeted sanctions” that is at work here, i.e. the modern sanction mechanism in which neuralgic points are attacked rather than entire countries ? no Arbitrariness is never proportionate. And legally, the way the EU sometimes sanctions and sometimes doesn’t sanctions is largely arbitrary. The case of the oil embargo is the most glaring. If it comes at all, it will come as a “partial” embargo, leaving some pipelines open and some closed. Some companies will continue to get oil, some will not. And gas should not be sanctioned.
This is legally untenable and clearly contrary to European law. No EU court will understand this distinction. There is no legal reason for this intolerable unequal treatment. The biggest problem with it: If one day a company sues the EU because of the existence-threatening effects of the partial oil embargo, then it will win. Do we really want to leave this flank open?
We should, should the EU not, take the risk of such a political embarrassment – and the Scholz government in particular should not take it. This should immediately bring the project of a total embargo in the EU into play – not only in the service of law or morality. The uncertainty in the German economy is almost unbearable. The patchwork of sanctions ties up enormous resources and – much worse – hinders huge business interests that have no connection to Russia at all.
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A total embargo would create clear conditions. In particular, because contracts would then be void by law, hundreds of medium-sized companies would no longer be forced into constant breach of contract. Above all, however, it would stop unequal treatment within the European, but also the German economy, which Chancellor Scholz apparently accepts: some companies bear horrendous burdens, others none at all, without anyone being able to explain what distinguishes the two groups; legal, moral, political. This doesn’t help our goal of protecting Ukraine at all and therefore senselessly harms our economy.
In this respect, too, the disadvantages of electing a weak and hesitant chancellor just because he comes across as more serious than his competitor are evident.