Prague - The sanctions imposed against Russia over Ukraine are an expression of helplessness, but Czech firms must maintain contact with Russian partners, otherwise no one will remember them soon, Vladimir Dlouhy writes in daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) today.
Dlouhy, chairman of the Czech Economic Chamber, writes that the depth of the current Urkainian crisis is determined by reactions on both sides.
The effort of the United States and the EU at integrating Ukraine into the EU and possibly NATO has not come true, while Europe and the United States did not want to see for many years how much Russia is ready to do for Ukraine´s neutrality, Dlouhy writes.
In addition, in spite of all sympathy with the pro-western Ukrainian politicians, it must be said that a part of Ukrainians which is not negligible is attracted to Russia and that the country is not politically stable, Dlouhy writes.
Russia, for its part, has just as absurdly aggravated the situation by both the annexation of Crimea and the only superficially covert direct support for the separatists, Dlouhy writes.
Anyway, President Vladimir Putin is popular in Russia more than ever and a majority of Russians are even prepared to tighten the imaginary belts, Dlouhy writes.
He writes that in this situation, the U.S. and EU economic sanctions cannot be seen as an expression of foreign policy, but rather of helplessness.
The sanctions will supply even more arguments for propaganda and European firms will lose Russian markets, which will be readily occupied by exporters from other parts of the world, Dlouhy writes.
He writes that this is not the year 1980, but the year 2014. U.S. and European exports, including very sophisticated products, can now be replaced from elsewhere, though the quality may be lower.
In addition, not Germany or the Netherlands, but small countries with specialised exports of rather small and medium volumes, which include the Czech Republic, will suffer most, Dlouhy writes.
He writes that the Czech Chamber of Commerce and other business organisations must maintain contact with Russian partners where politicians can no longer see space for cooperation.
Dlouhy writes that the whole crisis has one long-term aspect. Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan was a convinced opponent of the Soviet Union, but one of the first steps he took after election was to lift the embargo on exports of U.S. grain to the Soviet Union, approved by his predecessor Jimmy Carter after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
He knew that the economic sanctions are something on what the Soviets can blame the ineffectiveness of their economic system. Reagan decided to gain supremacy thanks to a strong economy, technological progress and sufficient spending on armament. History proved him right, Dlouhy writes.
A lesson should be taken from Reagan for the benefit of formulating a policy that would be effective in the long term, based on raising the economic and military strength and newly also supported by a gradual decreasing of energy dependence on Russian supplies, Dlouhy writes.
Ukraine´s NATO membership is completely ruled out. On the contrary, stabilisation will not be possible without a compromise with Russian demands. This will be a task for negotiators, who may use mediators from third parties in the weeks to come.
During this period, the Czechs continued economic presence in Russia will maintain the image of their firms as trustworthy partners, Dlouhy writes.
He writes that it may happen that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Putin will one day unexpectedly announce to the surprised world that a compromise solution to the Ukraine crisis has been found after weeks of patient, covert effort.
The Germans will defend their procedure in the EU as usual. The Americans will express sour reserve and German firms will be welcome in Russia even more than before. But if Czechs vacate positions, no one will remember them in Russia for a long time, Dlouhy writes.