Controversy over Washington's "Putin list"
Mandated by Congress the US government has published a list of around 200 politicians and businesspeople it has classified as have close ties to the Kremlin. The list has drawn criticism from Moscow, where there are fears that the document could serve as a basis for sanctions. Has Washington driven a wedge between Russia's elite and the president or is the list a bark without bite?
Russia's elite now has its outcasts
The list will make life difficult for those it names, opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov comments in a Facebook post published by the Echo of Moscow:
“The list is just a threat, not an attack. ... The Trump administration has explained that it considers the current sanctions to be adequate. But now a political game begins, Trump is being cornered and this document will become a joker in the opposition's hands. It will be discussed everywhere with a certain undertone. ... Here in Russia, by contrast, you could just as well hand out a bell for outcasts like in medieval times to those on the list. Even without sanctions a good few of them will see their business partners distance themselves or at least raise the price for cooperation - as a risk premium.”
Putin's power pyramid could collapse
The document could shake up the power structure around Vladimir Putin, journalist Igor Vitovich writes in Ukrayina Moloda:
“The list was published less with the aim of direct sanctions than to deconstruct Putin's power pyramid. Because every criminal power pyramid is constructed according to a simple logic: those at the bottom are loyal to the one at the top. In return the 'mafia boss' guarantees the security and impunity of the members of the group. But after this highly incriminating publication some at the bottom could make it clear to the boss that he has fallen short of his obligations. Individual elements of the pyramid are starting to 'desert', which could lead to the collapse of the entire structure.”
Trump accepts risk of new attacks from Moscow
For Handelsblatt the publication simulates a non-existent resolve:
“The list will probably have no real consequences to speak of, as long as the US president behaves himself otherwise. Trump, who is provoking a trade war with punitive tariffs and regularly alienates his allies with unilateral international actions, remains indulgent with Russia of all countries. In so doing he is denying his own population protection from anti-democratic attacks from abroad. While CIA chief Mike Pompeo has already warned of new attacks during this autumn's midterms, Trump is giving the Kremlin free rein to intervene in future election processes. He'll just have to live with accusations that he's putting his own interests above rational behaviour.”
This will only unite the Russians
Only Putin himself is missing from the list, the pro-Russian daily Duma comments with amusement:
“Putin said himself he was offended. Humour is the only way for a sensible person to react to the fruitless efforts of the American hegemonial power. ... The US is trying to use sanctions to put the Russians off their government so that they vote for a candidate who is acceptable to the US in the elections. Has Washington still not understood that that won't work? ... The more they demonise Putin, the more the Russians will close ranks and jointly profess their loyalty to him.”