|Food was an issue during previous conflicts|
Julian Bray writes: The news that Russia is considering imposing an airspace ban against European and US Airlines was on the cards as retaliation against EU sanctions, and specifically the moment they were imposed on Aeroflot's 'budget' airline Dobrolyot, which forced the carrier to suspend operations, as exclusively reported a couple of days ago on this blog, but seemingly overlooked elsewhere.
I thought it strange given the severity of the EU sanctions which halted Dobrolyot operations almost overnight didn't set off a few warning sirens in Westminster and Washington, but following the recent cabinet reshuffle, war in Gaza, Baroness Warsi decamping, matters kicking off in Iraq... You might well understand the grounding of a Russian budget carrier was well down the list.
It had planned some ambitious routes, in 2014, St. Petersburg, Samara, Yekaterinburg, Makhachkala, Krasnodar, Ufa, Kaliningrad and Novy Urengoy. By 2015, routes would be expanded to include Anapa, Volgograd, Surgut, Novosibirsk, Kazan, Sochi, Tyumen, Omsk, Perm, Nizhnevartovsk and Chelyabinsk. In 2016, Rostov-on-Don, Astrakhan, Mineralniye Vody, Kiev, Erevan and Istanbul will be added to the list of destinations. Aeroflot decided the new airline Dobrolyot would feature the new Boeing 737 Next Generation series, so the immediate problem is apparent, as most new aircraft throughout the world are externally financed ie leased. There is also the small matter of the technology and manufacture being of USA origin and therefore on the banned list. Essentially game over.
But the Russians have a few more cards to play including an airspace ban against European and US airlines that fly over Russian airspace to Eastern Asia. This would effectively change Russian airspace entry and exit points for European flights which could substantially raise costs for the Western carriers; revise the rules of the use trans-Siberian routes, and it follows they may even revoke the additional rights granted by the Russian air authorities beyond the previous agreements.
However one hundred years on from the outbreak of World War One, billed as the War to end all wars ie The Great War; this latest round of skirmishes, is a small part of the continuing war of inhumanities and dangerously dented international prestige. President Putin is taking anything that NATO is involved with as a personal affront.
The problem with the imposition of sanctions as western politicians are finding out is that some backfire and that is now happening with German car makers already suggesting shutdowns, as the embryonic luxury car markets were just about taking off. Russian luxury shopping malls stuffed to the rafters with western sourced goodies and now Russia is extending retaliation by banning the import of EU produced foodstuffs. Germanys Chancellor Angela Merkel knows all about food shortages as she grew up in Erfurt, then part of the GDR, the former East Germany.
Any ban will steer Russia from its high levels of dependence on food imports - circa 30 percent - but short term local production would "take time and require massive funding, which might be problematic given the strained budget and the stressed condition of the domestic financial sector."
Not really a problem as parts of mainland Europe are very heavily dependent on pipelined gas from Russia, surprisingly the UK isn't so exposed. President Putin might just decide that a lights out policy is called for. Lights out for Europe that is, as Europe bound Russian gas is turned off.
JULIAN BRAY, Journalist, Broadcaster, Aviation Security &Ops,Travel/Cruise Industry Expert, EQUITY, NUJ UK Tel: 01733 345581 (HOME ISDN NEW NUMBER 01733 345020) e&oe