Westerners Living in Moscow Fear Harassment Due to Sanctions

Westerners Living in Moscow Fear Harassment Due to Sanctions

With the resurgence of a Cold War sensibility in Europe and the U.S. now that Russia has annexed Crimea, it is getting hotter for Westerners living in Russia. Many foreign business leaders and ex-patriots living in Moscow are beginning to fear for their personal safety as a result of sanctions imposed on Russian officials for their aggression in the Ukraine.

“It is scary,” said a senior U.S. lawyer, who would not identify himself to protect his own safety as well as his law firm. “I wish Russian colleagues would get a more balanced view, maybe by talking to colleagues in Britain or the U.S. Their viewpoints are getting more radical, and it is depressing to hear them.”

So far there have not been any reported acts of violence, but ex-pats from the west are being cautious. It would not be the first time that Westerners would be harassed while living in Russia due to global events. Back in 1998-1999, during the Kosovo war when NATO exerted military force to end violence in the region, Westerners living in Moscow were threatened, intimidated, and advised to take low profiles and not speak languages other than Russian in public.

Russians get agitated when the US and NATO challenge the Kremlin’s aggressive and overreaching foreign policy. Vladimir Putin told the Federal Assembly at the Kremlin in Moscow on Tuesday, In the practical application of policies, our western partners–the United States first and foremost–prefer to be guided not by international law, but by the right of strength. They believe in their Exceptionalism, that they are allowed to decide on the fate of the world, that they are always right.” 

Tony Watkins, who has lived in Russia for the last two decades and works for Electronic Arts Russia, a U.S. video game giant, said foreigners should just keep their heads down and use common sense. Tony suggests that Westerners avoid situations where trouble could happen, like hanging out at Moscow bars late at night.

Christopher Van Riet, a Texan and managing director of Radius Group, a real estate infrastructure solutions company with about $1 billion in Russia projects, said no one has bothered him so far, but he suspects things could get worse, “I would only start to worry about this if the U.S. government really takes negative actions against Russia.”

On Monday, President Obama  warned of future sanctions against Russian officials and anyone aiding Russian officials, including “any individual or entity that operates in the Russian arms industry,” in an executive order aimed at Russia specifically. Obama added that “If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions.”