They’ve got much better ones than us.

The Germans decided to seize three tankers transporting Russian Liguified Natural Gas (LNG), so in response Russia effectively nationalised the huge joint venture of the Sakhalin-2 oil and LNG project to an as yet to be created Russian holding company. This is in all but name nationalisation in retaliation and looks to be the ideal target since the main existing western shareholders are British and Japanese, both nations labelled as “unfriendly” by Russia. Nobody is expecting any compensation, if any. If outright piracy on the open seas is good enough for Germany, then simply stealing the assets of companies based in “hostile” countries within Russia’s domain isn’t a crime either.

It is a clever move in several ways. Losing three tankers of LNG is a pin prick for Russia but instead of punishing Germany directly, they punish Britain and Japan instead for Germany’s rashness which is more than enough to set the cat loose amongst the happy sanctioneer’s coop. This response might seem excessive but it does appear to be the way Russia is now responding to these provocations. As much as possible, when one of the sanctioneers goes over the top, not only do they get their own suitably tailored response but all the other sanctioneers get punished as well.

Just as the West block moved to naming the freezing of East block assets to sequestration, meaning permanent thieving, the Russians insist what’s happening to the Sakhalin project as not being nationalisation but merely a “change of ownership” according to Dmitry Peskov, who’s Putin’s press secretary. I’ll bet he had a good laugh thinking up that form of words.

Another recent example of this carpet bombing style of reprisal approach is the way the Russians handled the Lithuanians shutting off access to their Kaliningrad settlement. It’s the only ice free port into the Baltic the Russians have and therefore is also home to the Russian Baltic fleet. It’s physically separated from the Russian Federation but assurances were given when the USSR was breaking up that access routes by road and rail through Lithuania would always be respected. After all, about a million Russians live there.

Probably because of pressure from the neo-con, neo-lib warmongers in Washington, Lithuania suddenly closed off all access to it. Any concept of international law doesn’t apply to any mechanism that can be thought up to economically punish Russia. A finger pointing war broke out between the Lithuanians, Germans and the EU about who exactly had ordered it, but either way the Russians made good use of it.

The Russians thought about it for a few days and then cut off all natural gas and oil supplies to Lithuania while at the same time organising Kaliningrad’s feeding and trade by sea. At the same moment they announced an immediate and complete ban on the sales of wheat and certain other commodities to countries “hostile” to Russia, meaning all EU states. Lithuania got punished, but so did every other sanctioning country in western Europe. Curiously, Estonian and Latvian demand for natural gas being bought from Russia suddenly increased – they were obviously going to sell this new excess to freshly deprived Lithuania, so their supply got cut back to the bone. Honestly, did they think the Russians wouldn’t spot that little work around?

Russia has already found replacement buyers for all the commodities they used to supply West block Europe, so at some point they’d have to turn off that supply which is a move that has bad optics – it’d look like they were being mean and aggressive and throwing western Europe into an energy and food crisis for no good reason. This way, they get to point the finger first at Europe – you tried to starve out our brave little Russians living in the Kaliningrad enclave, so we retaliated by not supplying you with flour. Wouldn’t you have done the same? Blame yourself for not having any bread on the EU and Lithuania, not on us.

The shock and awe version of applying sanctions to everything overnight might have made great headlines the next morning but the problem is that having done it all in one go, you’ve thrown away your escalation option, your chance to play cat and mouse and make your target worry about what’s going to be sanctioned next. The basic economies of the EU are already swirling around the toilet bowl, all they need now is Russia refusing to supply them with another basic commodity or two. About now, Lithuania is getting a lot of dirty looks from other EU nations for supplying the Russians with an excuse to tighten the screw on all of them.

I can see the same situation brewing with Norway’s decision to blockade the Svalberg group of islands. Yes, I’d never heard of them either. They’re somewhere in the north Atlantic just about half way between Norway and the North Pole. I won’t go into the whole messy history of them except to say that at one time or another everybody had staked some sort of a claim to them for no particular reason. Amongst them was Russia who at one time had a prosperous coal mining interest there. It ended up with a lot of different countries having some sort of marginal colony there but no absolute claim to the islands. However, by treaty, they were all guaranteed the right to supply food and goods to their colonies.

It’ll be a rerun of the Kaliningrad situation with no doubt the same tit for tat response to be expected from the Russians. They’ll find some particular way to give Norway a specific smack on the wrist while at the same time permanently withdrawing access to every EU country to some basic commodity and pointing the finger at Norway’s mischief as the reason. It doesn’t even have to be fair. Why not announce you’re going to punish Germany for what Norway did. After all, destroying the Germany economy would cripple all West block Europe and definitely hurry along the individual regime change processes.

How’s about cutting all natural gas supplies to all the EU by 50%? Or maybe the phosphate fertilisers by 75% just ahead of the late planting season? How’s about insisting on rubles only payment for everything combined with a 25% hike in all prices to cover supplying Svalberg by air? There’s nothing to stop them doing any of those things, anything they like. As you can see, they’re the ones holding all the good cards to play so they’ve lots to pick and choose from.

Norway trying to starve out Svalberg flouts international law, so why should Russia feel constrained by international law, never mind contract law. There is absolutely no legal backing to any of the sanctions, seizures and strictures that have been applied to them, so that means the rule of law in any recognisable form no longer applies. The net effect is anything goes, and if you don’t like it, then feel free to declare war on us and we’ll have WWIII. You talk a great fight, but you won’t, will you?

Russia is a rich, food and energy independent country that has about 6,000 nukes. If you could pick a worse nation, including China, to have an economic war with never mind a conventional or nuclear one, I’m all ears tovarich. The problem with fighting a proxy war using sanctions against such a nation is that having ran out of meaningful things to sanction to no visible effect, you’re forced to chip away at them using smaller and smaller provocations, which naturally leads to a tit for tat war. You’ve made your silly petty Kaliningrad or Svalberg pinprick move to no good effect and now have to wait for the response. You’ve handed over the initiative and can only await whatever retaliation Russia decides.

The much vaunted economic war of sanctions has fizzled down to a war of tit for tat, and the lesson the West block is learning is that mother Russia’s tits are much larger than our tats, whatever they might be.


Related articles by Pointman:

Remind me again, which country’s economy was sanctions going to devastate?

The Ukraine war – the military realities.

All articles about the Ukraine situation

Click for a list of other articles.

12 Responses to “They’ve got much better ones than us.”
  1. E.M.Smith says:

    It’s worse than that…

    Russia already reduced Natural Gas supplies to The West by some 50% to 60% due to “repair parts stuck in Canada” due to sanctions. There’s some Siemens compressor parts that Germany sent to Canada for a refurbishment that now “sanctions” won’t let come back.

    In mid July (so about now…) natural gas from Russia to the EU gets shut off 100% for “normal annual maintenance” for 10 days. What do you want to bet that at the end of 10 days Russia discovers come “necessary repair parts” that are sanctioned, so just can’t turn on the natural gas supply to the EU at all… Germany, meet toilet bowl as your industry drops to near zero. And all the EU Sanctions fault.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pointman says:

      It beggars belief that Canada and Germany have not been able to sort out this repairs problem in nearly three weeks. In the meantime, Germany is operating at 40% natural gas capacity and on the verge of declaring a national emergency.


      Liked by 1 person

      • Fraizer says:

        Spares/Repairs is probably a half truth at best. Putin is pinching Europe by giving them just enough to run (in summer) but not enough to fill storage for winter. “You want to sanction me? yes, those sanctions are hurting me. See, I can only keep enough equipment running to supply you a little energy. Hope nothing breaks this winter. Hope the spares/repairs will be available when we do our annual maintenance shutdown this summer”.

        The west has pretty much gone all in with the current sanctions and has nothing left to escalate with. Putin, on the other hand, has barely touched the counter sanctions available to him.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. philjourdan says:

    This is what you get when the deep state runs things with no leader. Each little bureaucrat has their microscopic view of the world and how best to get their piece of the pie, but no one sees the big picture.

    This all on the lack of leadership from bumbles biteme and the theft of the election 2 years ago.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Erny72 says:

    I’m not sure if I’m able to paste images here, it seems not, but a commenter to a Telegram channel posted an excellent manga style cartoon in a sanction related post very much in the theme you raised in your post. Namely how Russia’s tits are bigger that ‘Murica’s, erm, tits.
    …Nwo if I can remember which post and which channel it was back in June to provide a link 😦


  4. another ian says:

    He’s been found!

    ” Remember this “exclusive” story in the Daily Star about “general Pavel”, who was supposedly “dragged out of retirement” by Putin and sent to Ukraine? So yeah, turns out that’s total bullshit.”


  5. Pointman says:

    “Russian exclave responds to Baltic blockade ”

    “Kaliningrad has proposed a ban on the movement of goods between Russia and Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania ”

    “Governor of Russia’s Kaliningrad Region Anton Alikhanov has proposed a total ban on the movement of goods between Russia and the three Baltic states in response to what authorities in the exclave have called a “blockade” by Lithuania.

    “As a reciprocal measure we propose to completely prohibit the movement of goods (including those in transit from third countries) between the three Baltic States and Russia,” Alikhanov said on Monday, adding that Kaliningrad Region would be exempted from the ban.

    Lithuania on Monday expanded restrictions on trade through its territory to the exclave, as previously announced EU sanctions targeting Russia took effect. The list of barred goods includes concrete, wood, alcohol and alcohol-based industrial chemicals, according to a spokesperson for Lithuanian customs cited by Reuters.

    Moscow has blasted the move, warning it could take “harsh measures” against Lithuania and the EU if transit does not resume “within the coming days.”

    The Kremlin also announced on Monday that President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko had discussed “some possible joint steps” regarding the matter.

    Some analysts have suggested that Lithuania’s move to block Russia’s access to its own territory could, to some extent, be considered a ‘casus belli’ – a cause for the declaration of war.

    Last month, Vilnius banned the transit of some goods, including building materials, between Kaliningrad and mainland Russia, citing EU sanctions imposed over Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.”

    Sanctions vs Sanctions and overspilling borders.



  6. Pointman says:

    ” Brazil seeking Russian fuel supply – Bolsonaro

    The South American nation may clinch a deal with Moscow on cheap diesel imports, its president says ”

    They know they won’t be getting any from points north.



  7. ptownpt says:

    This is a priceless Russian diplomatic Ju Jitsu move. The new Russian Rules based order is any attack on Russia interests by any NATO member is considered an attack by all NATO members on Russian interests and therefore subjects all NATO members to collective Russian punishment. Now all NATO members can share the Russian economic and political blow back of individual NATO members actions


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