Europe adopts preliminary sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis

BRUSSELS – The European Union agreed on Tuesday to impose a modest first round of economic sanctions on Russia in response to the Kremlin’s recognition of two separatist enclaves in Ukraine and the movement of Russian forces there.

The sanctions, after coordination with the United States and Britain, were designed but fell short of the potential full package of sanctions that the 27-member reserve bloc is holding, in an effort to impress Russian President Vladimir Putin. To abandon larger military and territorial targets in Ukraine.

Mr. Putin’s move has put the EU in a quandary – how severe would the initial punitive sanctions be without an apparent military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine?

Josep Borrell Fontel, the bloc’s foreign policy official, said the sanctions were agreed unanimously at a meeting of his foreign ministers in Paris.

“The package of sanctions that was unanimously approved will harm Russia and will do a lot of harm,” Borrell said at a press conference.

Earlier he was careful in his words. “Russian forces have entered Donbass,” he said, referring to the separatist enclaves. “We consider the Donbass region to be part of Ukraine. I will not say that it is a complete invasion, but Russian troops are on Ukrainian soil. ”

The European Union said a larger list of sanctions would follow an “invasion” or “incursion” into Ukraine, but stopped short of identifying that trigger.

It was the kind of careful analysis of the facts on the ground that indicated this Sanctions Negotiations It will be a delicate process if the United States and its allies maintain a united front — exactly what Mr. Putin appears determined to test.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke similarly on Tuesday of his country’s plans to impose “only the first of a series of sanctions, because we believe there will be more irrational Russian behavior in the future.”

And in an important reference to Moscow, German Chancellor Olaf Schulz said he would Cessation of approval of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipelinewhich connects Russia and Germany, bypassing Ukraine, for an indefinite future.

The $11 billion pipeline, belonging to the Russian state-owned company Gazprom and the Kremlin, was completed. But Mr. Schultz said he would withdraw the government’s current ruling that the pipeline posed no security risks. “It is now not possible to obtain certification for the pipeline,” Mr. Schulz said. “Without this certification, Nord Stream 2 cannot be run.”

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For now, the pipeline has been put into hibernation, as it is assumed that it will remain as long as Russian forces remain in Ukraine. The pipeline is more a matter of actually sunk costs than of immediate effect, and not using it, if anything, will keep European energy prices high, because the EU is currently It depends on Russia for 40% of its natural gas.

So far, by preventing Russian forces from crossing the so-called “line of communication” between separatist forces and Ukrainian soldiers, Mr. Putin appears to be trying “to sail below the threshold of strict sanctions”. Ulrich Speck From the German Marshall Fund, a research organization in Berlin. Mr. Speck said Putin’s tactics appear to be “progress, pause, negotiate.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Russian forces across Ukraine are still in position for a large-scale invasion of Ukraine without warning, after NATO representatives on Tuesday met with Ukrainian officials. “Every indication is that Russia continues to plan a large-scale attack on Ukraine,” he said, adding, “It is never too late not to launch an attack.”

If Mr. Putin sends troops beyond the line of communication, “I think that’s the full price of European sanctions,” he said. Natalie TucciDirector of the Institute of International Affairs in Italy. “But if he sticks only to the occupied territories, there will likely be a long and divisive debate.”

Ms. Tucci added that the EU could not afford not to reach an agreement. So, if Mr. Putin does not go any further now, it is possible that even Poland and the Baltic states, despite their strong opinions about punishing the Kremlin hard and quickly, will accept a partial set of sanctions, as will Hungary, which is more professional. – Russia, but it has always accepted sanctions against Moscow, even while complaining about it.

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“The irony of the situation is that the worse it is for Ukraine, the easier it is for us to stick together,” said Ms. Tucci.

“The EU sanctions package has been carefully compiled to avoid divisions,” he said. Emre Baker, the European director of the Eurasia Group, a risk advisory firm. “Moving swiftly on the first set of targeted measures will help bolster unity, while paving the way for more substantive measures with follow-up sanctions.”

What the bloc has agreed to so far is a partial set of sanctions, mostly linked to Russian recognition of separatist enclaves. Sanctions do not include key items such as Russian energy companies, which will now be more controversial among member states with varying reliance on Russian natural gas and oil.

The sanctions target 27 individuals and entities, including political, military, commercial and financial organizations, as well as “propagandaists” associated with the recognition decision.

Some of the targeted people and organizations are geographically located within the two enclaves, Donetsk and Luhansk, diplomats said. But the sanctions are also aimed at members of the Russian State Duma who proposed and voted in favor of the resolution to recognize the enclaves. The diplomats added that the sanctions would include an asset freeze and an EU-wide travel ban.

Sanctions also prevent state and regional Russian governments, including state banks, from accessing the European Union’s money and capital markets, freezing the assets of three banks linked to separatist enclaves and extending a trade embargo on Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia. in 2014.

EU officials said the sanctions would take effect within 48 hours.

Guntram b. “The main difficulty is to maintain the unity of the European Union over time,” said the director of Bruegel, a Brussels-based economic think tank.

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“If Russia attacks a country in Central Europe, we must be ready to be bold in our response, and this means far-reaching and harsh economic and financial sanctions,” he said. “It can’t just be something short-lived for a few months but it has to go on to increase the cost already borne by Russia. But that means the cost on our part will increase.”

He added that the cost of sanctions imposed on Russia against the Europeans would not be evenly distributed. He said, “Therefore, the policy of continuation of sanctions will become more difficult over time due to domestic policies and various economic interests.” “In the shock of the invasion, we are ready to be strong. But the real question is will it last more than three or six months. If it continues for two to three years, it really cripple the Russian economy, and that will be a real problem for Putin – if it continues “.

in general, The EU can take losses more easily than Russia, since the block has a tenfold greater economy. Only about 5 percent of the bloc’s exports go to Russia, but about half of Russia’s exports go to the European Union, Mr. Wolf said, “and that gives us economic leverage”.

But, he added, there are “a lot of domestic taboos”, especially with regard to energy. “So the real problem for policy makers is the persistence of sanctions in the face of domestic pressures and vested interests that will oppose these sanctions because of the economic and financial loss.”

Edgars Rinkevix, Latvia’s foreign minister, said the sanctions could appear ineffective in the short term, but if they persist, they could do real damage.

“From a short perspective, sanctions cannot prevent Russia from invading Ukraine or doing what it did,” he told the BBC. But in the long run, especially those sanctions related to technology and transfers to the financial sector, they will slow down the development of Russia and this would in fact repeat a kind of experience of the Soviet Union. With time, in history, the Soviet Union simply collapsed. ”

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