The EU foreign ministers met in Brussels today with calls from the US, UK and The Netherlands for the imposition of more aggressive sanctions against Russia.
The European Union agreed Tuesday to expand a list of Russian entities and individuals subject to asset freezes and travel bans and threatened to target vast sectors of the Russian economy if Moscow did not act swiftly to rein in rebels believed to have shot downing a Malaysia Airlines plane over eastern Ukraine.The problem with the EU is that people there like most every where else are quite willing for other people to take a stand on principle as long as it doesn't hit them in the pocketbook. President Hollande is willing to join the call to get tough on Putin as long as the conversation is limited to generalities. However, France has contracts to deliver two warships to Russia. He thinks that it would unreasonable to impose an arms embargo that would get in the way of that. One ship is ready for delivery and Russian sailors are in France undergoing training in its operation.
But E.U. foreign ministers meeting in Brussels stopped well short of immediately carrying out vows in some countries to jump quickly to so-called “phase three sanctions” that could cripple the Russian economy. Rather, they agreed to prepare by Thursday a list of possible options, including a potential arms embargo, limits on dual-technology sales, and, more importantly, measures targeting the energy and financial sectors. Such measures could be imposed later only if Russia does not force pro-Moscow separatists to grant unfettered access to the crash site and fulfill its pledge to cooperate with an international investigation.
The ministers agreed to draft a new set of names by Thursday to be added to the 63 individuals and entities already targeted by the Europeans for destabilizing Ukraine. While the United States has sanctioned multiple officials in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, as well as major Russian companies, Europe so far has avoided taking such a confrontational stance. The action Tuesday suggested that the Europeans are now preparing to follow suit and hit those close to Putin harder.
What everybody hopes is that threats alone will be sufficient to bring Putin to heel. The wild card in these negotiations is China. They have sufficient financial resources to enable them to go a long way toward cushioning the Russian economy from blows coming from western sanctions. They appear to be playing a waiting game.