Medvedev Speaks Out Against U.S. Sanctions at St. Petersburg Forum
Published: June 21, 2014 (Issue # 1816)
Russia is taking its complaints against the sanctions-happy U.S. to the World Trade Organization, having sent the international body a communique that accuses Washington of failing to fulfill its trade obligations, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Friday at the fourth St. Petersburg International Legal Forum.
The White House's sanctions against Russia arrived in three waves in May and April following Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula in March. The most recent sanctions list targeted 17 companies — including several banks — owned by the likes of Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, Gennady Timchenko and Yury Kovalchuk, all of whom are believed to be President Vladimir Putin's personal friends. The sanctions led to the refusal of international payment systems Visa and MasterCard to service several Russian banks, in response to which Russia has taken steps to create its own national payment system in order to reduce dependence on the two companies.
In comments published on the government's website, Medvedev said that the sanctions violate WTO rules by discriminating against the suppliers and goods of another country, and that members of the organization have the right to make use of the "protection mechanisms" that it provides. However, he said that Russia's chances of winning the suit are slim due to the considerable clout he feels the U.S. wields in the organization. Russia joined the WTO in 2012.
"The question, of course, is which account of the legitimacy of the sanctions the WTO will accept, but it gives us the opportunity to evaluate the objectivity and impartiality of the organization," Medvedev added.
The possibility of Russia contesting the sanctions has been brewing for some time — as early as April, Russia's Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said Moscow was considering filing a lawsuit with the WTO over the United States' sanctions against Russian banks. Later that month, Reuters reported that Russia had circulated a confidential document at the organization setting out its grounds for launching a trade dispute.