Yesterday Bob blogged about disaggregating Russia by focusing on high ranking stakeholders in the Kremlin rather than broad sanctions which would punish average citizens. Today, Gideon Rachman (who back in April predicted the war) mentions the visa issue as well in the Financial Times. Doesn’t anybody remember how kind Russia was with visas for British citizens for the Champion’s League match? Ah, it seems that an invasion and occupation can very quickly erase such small gestures of goodwill.
The Russian government’s reluctance to occupy Tbilisi shows that there is still a debate going on in Moscow about how much international opprobrium the country can afford. Half a trillion dollars was wiped off the value of the Moscow stock exchange in the aftermath of the invasion of Georgia. The wealthy, Kremlin-connected elite would like to retain the privilege of having bank accounts in Switzerland, houses in London and tanks in neighbouring countries. It should not be too hard to suggest that there is a choice to be made. A crackdown on visas for Russian businessmen would be a good signal.