Poisoning of Navalny: how should the West react to the OPCW’s verdict?

Western governments weigh Russia response after Navalny poisoning

Poisoning of Navalny: how should the West react to the OPCW's verdict?

Experts believe that both economic and personal sanctions could become an effective response to Russia’s actions.

Alexei Navalny was poisoned with poison from the Novichok group of nerve agent warfare agents, experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed on Tuesday. They noted that this particular substance is not formally included in the banned list. At the same time, in its structure, it is close to four other agents that were banned by the organization in November 2019. Alexei Navalny himself said in a number of interviews that Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally behind his poisoning. The oppositionist urged not to name a possible sanctions list by his name, as suggested by some European politicians.

The OPCW said in a statement that the biomarkers in Navalny’s blood and urine samples have “structural characteristics similar to those of toxic chemicals belonging” to the Novichok group. This confirms the findings of Germany, where Navalny received treatment. Berlin asked the OPCW to take samples from Navalny and test them after German doctors concluded that he was poisoned with a substance from the Novichok group.

“The OPCW has without any doubt confirmed that laboratories in Germany, Sweden and France have already determined that Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent from the Novichok group. The organization will make the test results as accessible as possible for all 193 UN member states, ”said the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Western states have called for sanctions against Moscow in connection with the poisoning of Navalny. Russia denies any involvement, expresses doubts that the oppositionist was poisoned and declares that it does not work with Novichok.

“They cannot be held due to the fact that Russia is a party to the relevant conventions on the prohibition of chemical weapons. The Russian Federation has fulfilled all its obligations under this convention. Therefore, this cannot be discussed. As for the information published by the OPCW, I repeat once again, we have to get this information, ”Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of Vladimir Putin, commented on the situation..

The German Foreign Minister previously stated that if the OPCW confirms the poisoning of Navalny by Novichok, then new sanctions against Russia will become inevitable. The State Duma of the Russian Federation called the conclusions of the OPCW “politically engaged”. Alexei Navalny himself said that his poisoning was personally authorized by President Putin. The same opinion is held by Michael Carpenter (Michael Carpenter) – Director of the University of Pennsylvania Biden Center.

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  • Poisoning of Navalny: how should the West react to the OPCW's verdict?
    Poisoning of Navalny: how should the West react to the OPCW's verdict?

“The fact that Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok-class chemical very clearly indicates that the Russian special services were behind this assassination attempt. I don’t think they could act against the most popular Russian opposition politician and one of the most famous political figures in all of Russia without the approval of Vladimir Putin. It is inconceivable for me that they would act independently, bypassing the administrative chain, if we take into account both the domestic political consequences of these actions and the international ones – from the point of view of sanctions, from the point of view of another diplomatic response. This was a serious decision. And I just can’t imagine how it is possible that someone from the special services would do it without approval from above, ”says Michael Carpenter..

The Ambassador shares a similar opinion John Herbst (John Herbst) is a retired American diplomat who headed the US Embassies in Ukraine and Uzbekistan, and now the director of the Eurasian Center of the Atlantic Council.

“The findings of the OPCW are not surprising in light of what we have seen before. I mean, first the information came from Germany. We now have quite a lot of information about the Kremlin’s use of exotic chemical weapons to poison people. The fact that Russia denies its involvement in the poisoning is not new. Part of the Kremlin’s behavior is to deny the use of such weapons to kill people or try to poison them, ”said John Herbst.

Alexei Navalny called on the EU authorities for personal sanctions against people from Putin’s entourage. This list, in his opinion, should concern those close to the Russian president, and not ordinary performers..

Michael Carpenter believes that the most effective response from the EU and Germany will be to halt the construction of Nord Stream 2.

“Firstly, there is already a lot of tension in Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. So I don’t know if there are many more people you could add to the list. Presumably they are, but I don’t think it will make a big difference. I respect Navalny’s opinion that sanctions should be imposed not against the population of Russia as a whole, but against malefactors associated with the regime of Vladimir Putin. This is the right strategy. “.

Michael Carpenter believes that the best solution would be to stop the construction of Nord Stream 2.

“The Kremlin does not expect this. Yes, they are ready for some other sanctions, but not for this. In my understanding, Moscow could not have foreseen that Navalny would eventually fly to Berlin, that he would be treated in a German hospital, and would meet with Chancellor Merkel. And so I think that the best possible outcome here would be if German politicians themselves decided that Nord Stream 2 could not be completed, that it was not needed, and that it was clearly a geopolitical game bypassing Ukraine. So in this situation, I would prefer it, “- said Michael Carpenter.

John Herbst stresses that any sanctions matter: both against individuals who are behind the poisoning, and against legal.

“We also see that the sanctions are working. As a result of the Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine, Russia’s gross national product is declining by 1 percent per year, or even slightly more. And Moscow is making tremendous efforts to try to lift the sanctions, although that does not change the aggression that provoked them. In my opinion, this is still a good result, because the Kremlin is paying the price for its misdeeds. Sanctions are not a panacea, but they are the right tool, ”the former diplomat said..

John Herbst, in turn, believes that the greatest damage could be done if the US and the EU impose joint sanctions..

Russian experts: the West takes a consolidated approach

Experts interviewed by the Russian service of the Voice of America agree that the OPCW’s decision was logical and fairly predictable..

It is very important that the statement about “Novichok” was written in black and white about Russia’s violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, believes the editor-in-chief of the online edition Insider Roman Dobrokhotov. In his opinion, this is a fundamental moment..

“It is no coincidence that immediately after the OPCW’s statement, the Russian media began to actively pedal on the fact that the organization’s specialists allegedly discovered some kind of non-prohibited substance, since it was not included in the official“ black list ”of the department,” he added. – Of course, this is clear misinformation, since the main thing here is that the new version of the OV is also a military chemical weapon. And the statement itself emphasizes that Russia has violated international law “.

Of course, this will entail serious consequences for the Kremlin, Roman Dobrokhotov believes: “The guarantee for this is that the West is showing a consolidated approach to this issue. There is no doubt that Germany, France and Great Britain will vote for the sanctions in Europe. The White House has also more than once unambiguously spoke about the attempt on the life of Alexei Navalny ”

It is important that the reaction was simultaneous from all sides, summed up the editor-in-chief of the online edition Insider.

Recall the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Commenting on Washington’s position on the poisoning of the Russian opposition, he stressed that “the United States made it clear that the use of chemical weapons in this way is unacceptable.”.

Political scientist Fedor Krasheninnikov noted that the decision of the OPCW is significant in itself, but he is more interested in what punishment the perpetrators of the crime will incur. “Because if the measures that the West will take turn out to be symbolic, weak, or, say, hitting only Nord Stream 2, but not affecting specific people, then this is tantamount to the Kremlin getting away with everything once again.” , – he explained.

The position of the Russian authorities is to deny the obvious and assert that there was not even the crime itself, the political scientist emphasized. In his opinion, it is difficult to force Russia to fulfill its international obligations: “Putin is again playing his favorite game -“ unconsciousness ”. I think he proceeds from the fact that the West will quarrel now, and each country will start lobbying for its interests, and then everything will somehow come to naught. Putin hopes that he will deceive everyone again, and that is what the stake is on. “.

If Western sanctions are indeed powerful and personal, then the Kremlin’s position may begin to change, concluded Fyodor Krasheninnikov.

  • Alexander Yanevsky

    Journalist. Graduated from the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. He has worked on Channel 1 + 1 and Channel 5, on the Voice of America since 2014, and was one of two Voice of America correspondents covering the 2018 Russian presidential elections from Moscow. He pays attention to the topic of US-Ukrainian and US-Russian relations. Actively covered the case of Paul Manafort and Maria Butina.

    [email protected]voanews.com

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Poisoning of Navalny: how should the West react to the OPCW's verdict?

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