In a victory for the country’s tough talk and the withholding of annual contributions, Russia has been voted back into PACE, despite strong protests from some members.
The Chairman of Russia’s State Duma's International Affairs Committee, Leonid Slutsky, was in a buoyant mood on Tuesday after it was announced that his country was readmitted into the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), stating that Russia will no longer tolerate "any more sanctions, no matter how insignificant."
PACE, which is ostensibly tasked with the responsibility of upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law, stripped Russia of its voting rights in 2014 after it invaded Crimea and backed militants in the East of Ukraine which has resulted in more than 13,000 deaths.
Speaking to TRT World, James Nixey, Head of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House, wasn’t surprised by PACE’s decision to readmit Russia.
“The Council of Europe has had a long and dishonourable record of conceding to Russian diplomacy, through a mixture of corruption, coercion and bribery,” said Nixey.
“Even without these methods, there is also an innate desire in the PACE structures and many of its member states to allow Russia in.”
In a vote of 118 for and 62 against with ten abstentions, PACE lifted one of the first sets of sanctions that had bedevilled and ostracised Russia internationally.
Russia responded in 2016 by boycotting the assembly and has since 2017 refused to pay its annual contribution of $37.5 million, which amounted to almost 7 percent of the council's annual budget.
The country’s re-admission to the international body is a victory for Russia’s diplomacy, after threats to leave the body totally if it were not allowed back in time for the election of a new secretary-general on June 26.
Russia is acutely aware that its international standing has taken a battering in recent years.
“In the mind of the public, Russia’s re-admission into PACE, which is a European Union institution, is tantamount to it being readmitted into the ranks of liberal democracies,” said Nixey from Chatham House.
The decision will likely see an emboldened Russia calculate that with time, it can overcome other sanctions as fissures grow in the international community. The most important takeaway for Russia is that it didn’t have to give anything away.
“Russia for its part hasn’t conceded on any significant issue from Ukraine to Syria, and the onus is on PACE to enforce its own rules,” said Nixey.
For his part, Volodymyr Ariyev, representing the Ukrainian delegation to PACE said the assembly’s decision represented “a very bad message: do what you want, annex another country's territory, kill people there, and you will still leave with everything".
Whereas France, traditionally an ally of Russia, claimed, "it would be dangerous... to deprive millions of citizens of access to bodies that protect their rights," as it welcomed the PACE’s decisions to readmit the country.
There has not yet been a US reaction to the decision, however, according to Nixey: “The US, although not directly responsible for these actions, has lost the moral authority due to its more extravagant approach to international relations.”
PACE was founded in 1949 and currently has 47 members states. While the body does not have the power to create binding laws it does demand action from its member states towards countries that are not obeying their commitments under PACE.