Sputnik: In your view, how justified are these sanctions against Russia?
Nicolai Petro: Sanctions are the wrong tool if you want to change the policy of another country for three basic reasons. One, they increase the self-sufficiency of the targeted economy, they result in a loss of markets for the country that you are trading with and therefore, again, results in a loss of influence in the targeted country and to reinforce that, it generally strengthens the regime in power. This is not just with respect to Russia, this is the academic consensus on what sanctions do generally.
Sputnik: What impact may they have on tense diplomatic relations between Moscow and Washington?
Nicolai Petro: As you say, the relations are tense, but that's a fudge word. So, we don't know how much more tense they can get — they can always get more tense. I suppose the next threshold is warfare.
Sputnik: Well, absolutely. Now the US president has considered lifting sanctions against Russia. Any likelihood or not given that this president's administration has got another two years to run?
Nicolai Petro: Don't think the president has the political clout in Washington to accomplish any significant foreign policy changes. And one of the most dramatic changes would obviously be an improvement in relations with Russia. That's partly the weakness that he faces because he is constantly under media attack here, but it also is a reflection of the low priority that Americans give to foreign policy in general.
Sputnik: What is it going to take to improve relations between America and Russia?
Nicolai Petro: People, it's not the matter of political leadership, it's not the matter of change of institutions. The transformation that has to go on is a transformation of the simplest and hardest kind at the same time: it's a transformation in the hearts of men. In other words, people simply have to decide that they want to get along with each other, and they have to find the rational in their own hearts — more than in their minds — for doing so. And until that happens, well, there is every reason to allow things to get worse.
Sputnik: The sanctions come as Germany's foreign minister has spoken about the need for Europe to counterweight US actions. What's your take on that?
Nicolai Petro: As regards the average man in the streets here in the United States, I think our perception of US-NATO relations, first and foremost, and secondarily relations with the EU, is pretty much stuck somewhere in the 1950s and 1960s. Since that time, I think, American administrations have in general taken Europe for granted and seen it as simply a consortium of nations that exists to serve the global interests of the United States. If it fails to do that then what use are they to us? And although the rhetoric is nobler than that coming from the mouths of our politicians, the practical policies that they follow during the Obama administration, prior to the Obama administration, after the Obama administration, as far back as I can remember, has reflected this.
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