Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Russian Hybrid War Reaches Zagreb

Adelina Marini, June 18, 2016

Russia believes there are trade and sanction wars led against it. This became clear from an article [in Croatian language] by the Russian ambassador to Croatia, Anvar Azimov, published by one of the most circulating newspapers in Croatia Vecernji list. According to Mr Azimov, all over the place there is evidence of politicising the interests of “a tight circle of trans-national corporations and blatant infringement of existing rules in world economy”. Lately, trade and sanction wars came to fashion, which are being used entirely as a tool for not complying with competition laws, claims the ambassador. “A persuasive example would be the levied trade and economic restrictions on Russia without sanction from the UN”, continues the text, which forgets to mention why were these sanctions imposed, namely because Russia violated international law by annexing the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula. 

In his text, the ambassador uses the occasion to legitimise Russian positions with the fact that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourg, EPP) was present at the Saint Petersburg economic forum, as well as with the fact that the forum was opened by UN boss Ban Ki-moon. The Russian diplomat further claims that the EU has lost more than Russia from the sanctions. He did not, however, quote concrete sources, but spoke of “different assessments”, according to which EU member states have lost over 100 billion euro in the period 2014-2015, and Russia has only lost 25 billion. He claims that the losses of Croatian producers in particular amount to over 50 million euro. He also points out that the only state that has not incurred losses is the USA, as well as claiming that American Vice-President Joe Biden admitted in October of 2014 that the EU instituted sanctions against Russia under pressure by Washington. 

Further on in the article the ambassador attacks the agreement project for free trade with the USA (TTIP), as well as the recently signed Pacific trade agreement of the USA. In the spirit of Kremlin propaganda the ambassador claims that there are no debates provisioned on the contents of the agreement before it comes into force – not with trading partners, “not even with their own population”. "Is this Democracy? Free market? Following the universal guidelines of the World Trade Organisation?”, innocently asks the Russian ambassador to Zagreb, after which he falls into the reality of hearsays by stating that “very few believe that the contents of the TTIP will benefit the average European citizen”. The diplomat never quotes a single poll, or concrete data. 

Completely as expected, he pulls the talk back in the realm of energy, hinting at the planned building of a liquefied natural gas terminal in Croatia, not mentioning specific projects, however. “A good example for this is the so called diversification of energy security in Europe, because of which there are liquefied gas terminals being built all over the continent, to be used for delivering North-American natural gas”, writes Azimov. 

The Russian ambassador to Zagreb’s article comes at a very fateful moment for Croatia, whose government fell this week and President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović asked for a dissolving of Parliament and snap elections as soon as possible. Russian energy interests turned out to be part of the scandals, which made the government’s instability uncontrollable. According to Croatian media claims, the wife of the resigned last week First Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the largest political party in the country Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Tomislav Karamarko, had relations with companies and persons, connected to Russian energy interests, whom she performed PR services for.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

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