17th Jul 2019

Putin says Western sanctions threaten nuclear 'stability'

  • Putin looks at map of infrastructure projects in Russia (Photo:

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has said the Ukraine crisis threatens nuclear “strategic stability” and global “economic health”.

“We hope our partners will realise the futility of attempts to blackmail Russia and remember what consequences discord between major nuclear powers could bring for strategic stability”, he said, referring to EU and US sanctions, in Serb daily Politika on Thursday (16 October).

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“If the main goal is to isolate our country, it’s an absurd and illusory goal … but the economic health of Europe and the world can be seriously undermined”.

Politika published the interview ahead of Putin’s visit to Belgrade later the same day.

The Russian president will be honoured at a military parade before going to Milan for an EU-Asia summit, where he will meet his Austrian, British, French, German, and Italian counterparts, as well as Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko.

EU leaders are expected to discuss rolling back Russia sanctions at a summit in Brussels on 23 October, but a formal review of the sanctions regime is due on 30 October.

The ceasefire in Ukraine – although wobbly – is likely to prompt calls for a rapprochement with Moscow.

Vygaudas Usackas, the EU’s ambassador to Russia, told the Reuters news agency on Wednesday: “It seems like we are entering a more promising and positive chapter of the whole puzzle about the crisis in and around Ukraine”.

Jen Psaki, a US state department spokeswoman, also said the US and Russia will co-operate on Islamic State despite what she called the “disagreement” on Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russia's Belgrade and Milan delegation includes energy minister Alexander Novak and Alexei Miller, the head of Russian gas firm Gazprom.

Putin told Politika he wants to “resolve the deadlock concerning South Stream”, a Russian gas pipeline, and to find a way to keep EU gas flowing through Ukraine in winter.

He also urged the European Commission to let Gazprom pump more volumes through Opal, a branch line of Russia’s Nord Stream pipeline to Germany.

The EU has urged Serbia to stop South Stream construction because it violates European energy laws.

It has granted Gazprom an exemption on competitors’ access to Opal, with a decision on extending the Opal privileges due at the end of the month.

For his part, Yuri Ushakov, a Putin aide, told Russian media also on Wednesday that Moscow hopes Jean-Claude Juncker’s new commission will be more open to South Stream.

“The commission is now changing its composition, and we do not know yet which position Brussels will follow ... this subject is not closed”, he said.

Putin also called for closer ties with Serbia despite its strategic choice to join the EU.

He told Politika that Russia recently invested $3 billion in Serbia; that South Stream will bring $2.5 billion more; and that he might authorise new loans to Belgrade.

By contrast, EU aid to Serbia last year amounted to €208 million ($264mn).

Putin spoke of the “centuries-long” links between Serbian and Russian people, including the Soviet Union’s help in liberating Serbia in World War II.

But he said “neo-Nazism” is on the rise in EU states, such as Latvia. He also said the US controls Ukraine via its “Kiev henchmen”, who are guilty of “rabid nationalism”.

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