MOSCOW, November 12 (Sputnik), Daria Chernyshova — Switzerland's decision to strengthen its own sanctions against Russia, alongside the latest package of EU sanctions, including those against Russia's largest banks and oil companies, confirms Swiss foreign policy is not entirely directed from Bern, but influenced by the EU or, at least a desire to appear on the same page as the EU, experts told Sputnik.
"Sanctions are part of a complex diplomatic process. They belong to a " tit-for-tat " game and if you want the signal sent to be clear and not ambiguous you need to clearly relate sanctions to a particular event," prominent French economist Jacques Sapir told Sputnik. "This was clearly not the case in the recent Swiss decision and this fact is a proof that sanctions were not a genuine Swiss policy but something imposed on […] the Swiss government."
"I think that they skipped the previous stage and now they want to be on the same page with other Western countries," Russia & CIS economist with Renaissance Capital, Oleg Kouzmin, told Sputnik, explaining that Bern was probably looking for "some amelioration of the situation in Ukraine, but we see that a frozen conflict in still there."
Jacques Sapir noted that Switzerland has long been engaged in a complex dialogue with both the United States and the European Union on finance and banking.
"Switzerland has [already been] bullied in the past about so-called "secrecy laws" in the bank industry. In this situation the EU and the US government had just too much levers and means of pressure on the Swiss government. In the end, this story is saying something about how much the US and the EU actually care about "sovereignty" of other states," Sapir said," adding that by bullying Switzerland the EU and US have weakened its image of neutrality, and this could be significant in the upcoming WTO negotiations.
Switzerland's world image of neutrality has suffered following these decisions. Mikhail Belyaev, head of the banking section of the Russian public consumer organization Union To Protect The Rights Of Consumers Of Financial Services, stressed this fact. "It is weird to see that done by Switzerland, because it has been positioning itself as a neutral state," Belyaev said noting that Switzerland is not an EU member and that Russia's relationship with the EU is not its concern. "The block of Western countries apparently has influence over all the countries, including Switzerland."
Jacques Sapir pointed out that the tarnishing of Switzerland's neutral image could have a serious impact on international relations beyond ordinary Swiss self-interest.
At the same time, Swiss sanctions do not come as a surprise for the markets.
"Ultimately, I do not think that it comes as a surprise for the markets or for the officials," Oleg Kouzmin said. "Everybody considered this as a possibility and expected it. So I think it was anticipated by the market and will [not] lead to any surprises for the markets or officials."
This summer Russia introduced restrictions on imports from countries that imposed sanctions on Russia. Switzerland was not part of those sanctions and Swiss products have enjoyed an increased popularity in Russian markets as competition has eased. With Swiss sanctions, Swiss companies could be at risk.
"A lot of Swiss companies are heavily engaged in trade and exports to Russia," Jacques Sapir told Sputnik, explaining that ties between Switzerland and Russia go beyond banking and chocolate. "If a ban [on Swiss] agro-industrial products would be decided on by Russia, this could harm the Swiss economy. Of course, some luxury goods could also be concerned. But, the main damage for the Swiss industry could be the loss of several industrial contracts with Russia. This is a serious concern among the community of Swiss managers."
Mikhail Belyaev underlined that difficulties between the two countries will disappear when relations cool down. "I cannot see a catastrophe happening for Russia due to [sanctions]," Mikhail Belyaev concluded.