Another example of two dangerous trends. One, how Putin’s Russia uses and abuses the openness of the free world’s institutions—criminal justice and courts, the media, the political system. Two, Europe’s desire to sweep any conflicts under the rug, hoping they will go away. Much as with the official Dutch response to the shooting down of MH17 and two hundred Dutch passengers by Putin’s forces in Ukraine, and the UK covering up the Litvinenko investigation for a decade.
It’s bizarre to me that a Dutch court could essentially overrule an international court in this way, but the EU bureaucracy has limitless ways to cover its tracks and to avoid taking action. As usual, western policy in the 21st century is “say it’s too difficult until it becomes impossible”. Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky was a political prisoner for a decade in Putin’s gulag, and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg decided Russia owed Yukos shareholders 1.9 billion euros. A separate arbitration panel put a price of 50 billion dollars on how Putin’s cronies robbed and looted the world’s largest oil company. This would put pressure on Europe to collect by going after the companies and assets of many of Putin’s buddies—a tough battle they clearly have no appetite for.
Of course, Putin immediately signed a law saying Russia is exempt from such decisions, making the long-standing double-standard official. Russia uses Interpol to harass Kremlin critics worldwide but harbors accused suspects, such as the main suspect in the polonium poisoning of British citizen Litvinenko in 2006. (Not just protecting him, installing him as a member of the Russian parliament!) Russia should be ejected from global institutions if it has no respect for them.
As long as the free world allows this one-way situation to exist, Putin will continue to exploit it and Europe keeps bringing a pillow to a gunfight. For all its talk of European values, it will lose those values if it refuses to defend them. And the cost will be much higher than 50 billion dollars.
Russia succeeded in its battle to overturn a $50 billion arbitration ruling after a Dutch court ruled that the panel of judges who issued the record-setting award to the former owners of Yukos Oil Co. had no right to review the dispute.
The ruling by a court in the Hague Wednesday was a sweeping victory for the country in its more than decade-old fight with the owners of what was once Russia’s biggest oil company. The court said that the arbitration panel misinterpreted a treaty that Russia signed, but never ratified, according to a copy of the judgment.