Op-ed: Can Armenia and Georgia be sanctioned for helping Russia bypass international restrictions?
Armenia and Georgia were put on the US Treasury list
Armenia and Georgia are on the list of countries through which sanctioned goods can reach Russia and Belarus.
The Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the US Department of the Treasury also included in this list Kyrgyzstan, China, India, Mexico, Israel, Serbia, South Africa, Taiwan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
“To these countries, controlled goods can be legally exported as raw materials, but their further export to Russia or Belarus is prohibited. Of particular concern is equipment that can be used for military purposes”, the statement said.
Items of particular concern include equipment that can be used for military purposes: aircraft parts, sonar systems, antennas, test equipment, GPS systems, oilfield equipment.
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Commentary from Yerevan
International political scientist Grigor Balasanyan sees the risks for Armenia associated with a warning from the United States – from freezing transfers to disconnecting the country from the SWIFT system.
According to Balasanyan, the Armenian authorities should not be passively waiting for the situation to worsen, in order to take steps to correct it later, already in time trouble.
“US Ambassador Lynn Tracy should be invited to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, the Armenian side should inform her that they are concerned [with this decision]. The government should present arguments why it maintains economic activity with Russia”, the expert told JAMnews.
He says that the warning was expected, as the US and the West set the task of “surrounding Russia from all sides, not giving it loopholes to overcome sanctions.” However, Balasanyan considers it wrong to unquestioningly fulfill the desires of the United States. The expert claims: that Armenia can import and export goods if they are not prohibited:
“There is a clear list of goods fixed by Interpol, the export or import of which is prohibited. If we are talking about goods that are not included in this list, then Armenia, as a sovereign state, has the right to export and import any goods through its territory”.
In his opinion, in order to exclude Armenia from this list, Armenian lobbying organizations should actively work with the State Department. Grigor Balasanyan does not pin his hopes on the Armenian Ambassador to the US. He believes that Lilit Makunts does not have political and diplomatic experience to resolve such issues.
The political scientist emphasizes that Russia is the only direction of Armenia’s economic development today. He also reminds us that Armenia is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, operating under the auspices of Russia. Therefore, Armenia is simply obliged to support its economic partner. According to the expert, in economic relations with its ally, “Armenia is not obliged to take into account or ask the opinion of any state”.
Political scientist, an expert on Georgia Johnny Melikyan says that the US warning is another reminder of the existence of sanctions.
“States should conduct their economic policy, understanding and remembering this. This does not mean that you should not work with Russia, you just need to be very careful and not do what is forbidden”, the political scientist told JAMnews.
He does not believe that Armenia and Georgia were included in this list “on purpose” and that the list of countries is long, and all these countries have some kind of economic relations with Russia:
“Armenia and Georgia, like all countries that have not imposed sanctions against Russia, should try to prevent the use of their territory, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, continue trade and economic relations with Moscow”.
According to Melikyan, Washington does not see the danger of exporting military equipment through Armenia and Georgia but considers Central Asia to be of “special concern” to the US Bureau of Industry and Security.
Commentary from Tbilisi
Kakha Gogolashvili, Senior Research Fellow at the Rondel Foundation, Director of the Center for European Studies:
“One case has already been disclosed in the media when Motorola’s systems were transported from Georgia to Uzbekistan, and from there they got to Russia. This fact was not denied even by the director of the company. He said that, yes, they were sold, but to Uzbekistan, and not to Russia.
Deliveries to Motorola are prohibited since radio transmission systems and GPS are on the list of sanctioned goods.
If they conduct an investigation, they will determine how much the Georgian company or the Georgian government was to blame in this case. However, the fact happened. Georgia turned out to be the path that the sanctioned cargo took. Maybe in this case the law was not violated, but Georgia was involved in the scheme.
It is because of such cases that Georgia ended up on this list. This is what we know, but there could be other incidents.
If it is proved that this happens frequently, Georgia will be asked to prevent these cases.
When you sell a sanctioned cargo and deliver it to a country not associated with sanctions, and when you do not know the future fate of this cargo, you must calculate the risks and investigate. In this case, for example, it turned out that this company is actually Russian and registered in Uzbekistan.
When you export to a third country and you have no guarantee that your goods will not reach Russia, you are also being used as part of a sanctions evasion scheme.
If such cases are repeated and become systematic, it is possible that the country will be included in the sanctions list. It is possible to ban the import of sanctioned goods into Georgia.
Therefore, regardless of whether Georgia joins the sanctions or not, the country must declare that in the conditions of war it prohibits the export of dual-use goods to Russia or to countries that have no restrictions with Russia through its territory.
Otherwise, the country may actually face sanctions”.