Until now Russian retaliation against Western sanctions has been largely symbolic, culminating with this week's Holy Grail gas deal with China, 10 years in the making, which would not have happened on such a truncated timeframe had it not been for western prodding. However, now Russia may be getting ready for actionable retaliation against the west. RIA reports that Russia has prepared a "confidential document" with measures in response to Western sanctions, citing Kremlin advisor Andrew Belousov.
"I can say that, while it is not a strategy, we do have a tactic. It is in the form of a document which for understandable reasons is confidential. But it clearly lists the Russian sanctions: focusing on individuals, companies, sectors, whether they are comprehensive and systemic, and if they impact the banking system" Belousov was cited as telling TV channel Rossia 24.
According to him, there is a prescribed action at each of the listed levels. "So if any further action is taken against Russia, I can say that we know precisely how to react."
And while it is unclear if the US will dare to issue any more sanctions against Russia, considering the Russian stock market is now back to pre-sanctions levels, thus proving their complete futility (and if anything will simply serve to bring Russia and China even closer), one development that would certainly infuriate Putin is the news that Ukraine may hold a NATO accession referendum as soon as June 15.
Itar-Tass reports that Ukrainian presidential nominee Yulia Tymoshenko has suggested to hold an all-Ukrainian referendum on the country’s accession to NATO to coincide with possible second round of presidential elections. The politician said this in a statement on Friday.
Tymoshenko said: “We need to make a strategic decision. This decision is the accession of Ukraine to the system of collective security and defense of NATO”.
The presidential nominee believes “NATO is security and peace” and “all member states of this alliance are secured from aggression”.
“However, no politician has the right to make such a strategic decision without people’s will. Therefore, I suggest to hold the historic, fateful referendum on Ukraine’s accession to NATO on June 15, simultaneously with the second round of presidential elections,” Tymoshenko suggested.
Whether this is simply a publicity stunt by the former presidential frontrunner whose winning chances have slipped dramatically in recent weeks leading to the very distinct possibility of a second round runoff election without a clear winner this weekend, remains unknown. However, one thing Putin made explicitly clear earlier today is that he sees NATO expansion as the single biggest threat to Russia, especially considering the implicit understanding between James Baker and Gorbachev from 1990 that Nato would not expand east. Well, NATO may not only be expanding east but it may soon be knocking on Russia's doorstep.
And that would certainly provoke the Russian bear like nothing yet seen.