1

Earlier on his arrival in Warsaw the president had met US and Polish air personnel from a detachment of F-16 fighter jets. Obama also stressed that more sanctions were being prepared against Russia if the West decided it ( Russia) engaged in activities which were destabilising to Ukraine.

Source: http://euronews.com/2014/06/03/us-to-step-up-military-presence-in-european-reassurance-initiative/

If I want to make a mixed conditional out of the sentence, it would be something like:

If new sanctions were going to be imposed on Russia in future, it would be because of further possible destablising activities in Ukraine.

Which one is more grammatically correct?

I would also be very greatful if you could simplify both sentence one and two, please, so that it would be more easy to get the differences between them.

Many thanks in advance.

  • "Which one is more grammatically correct?" Are you comparing the two quotes, or the bolded conjugations within a quote (and if so, which quote)? – Esoteric Screen Name Jun 4 '14 at 8:23
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Your rewrite changes the meaning of the sentence.

The sentence is complex because there are three time periods involved, which makes the tenses confusing. There is the present, when the reader is reading the article. There is the recent past when Obama made these statements. And there is a somewhat more distant past when Russia did these things in Ukraine.

As written, the statement says that the West is in the process of preparing sanctions -- past continuous, but presumably the present as of the time that Mr Obama said it -- in case it decides that Russia did certain things -- past tense. That is, they are preparing sanctions now which will be implemented if they decide that things Russia did in the past were destabilizing.

Your rewrite puts the destabilizing actions in the future of when Obama makes the statement, rather than in the past.

Adding to the confusion, perhaps, is that the statement involves some political double-speak. It is hard to see how any rational person could say that Russia's past actions in the Ukraine are NOT "destabilizing". You might think them justified or not, but they are surely destabilizing. But politicians often play word games of this sort. "When I said 'read my lips, no new taxes', I meant income taxes ..." or "When I said 'if you like your insurance plan you can keep it, period', I didn't mean in all cases ..." For whatever reasons, politicians are unwilling to say, "We wanted to do X but we had to change our plans because our allies wouldn't go along" or "I promised X but circumstances have changed and now I just don't see how it would be possible". (Well, and of course they never say, "I promised X but that was just a trick to get people to vote for me and I never intended to do it.")

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I think you are looking into the conditionals too deeply and reading too much into it. The original sentence could be parsed as:

Obama also stressed that more sanctions were being prepared against Russia [to be put into action] if the West decided it ( Russia) engaged in activities which were destabilising to Ukraine.

Your rewrite changes the meaning considerably. The simple statement is that sanctions are being prepared - and the reason that they are being prepared is that maybe the West will decide in the future that Russia engages in destabilising actions.

Strictly speaking this use of if is a bit colloquial, I guess. It would be similar to

I made sure I prepared some extra sandwiches if I would feel hungry later on.

Basically, there is an elided for:

I made sure I prepared some extra sandwiches [for] if I would feel hungry later on.

Your sentence:

If new sanctions were going to be imposed on Russia in future, it would be because of further possible destabilising activities in Ukraine.

Makes the sanctions hypothetical - which is strictly speaking correct, as they are only being prepared now - but that confuses the matter slightly.

The sanctions are being prepared. No hypothetical there.
The preparation is done with a purpose.
That purpose regards Russia's potential future actions.
If Russia's actions are seen as destabilising, the preparations will serve their purpose (that is, sanctions will be imposed).

Now, nowhere in the original sentence is there any implication that imposing the sanctions has to be only caused by those destabilising actions. There could be other reasons. But the purpose of the preparations is to be ready for those destabilising actions.

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