Many hoped that the downing of Malaysia airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine would galvanize the EU to take a firm stand against Russia, but those hopes now look increasingly unrealistic. European leader meeting yesterday in Brussels agreed to fast-track the next round of sanctions targeting individuals and entities who have materially contributed to the chaos in Ukraine. These future sanctions, however, are still notional. The Guardian:
There will be a meeting of EU ambassadors on Thursday, who will approve a widening of the targeted sanctions list to include close associates “who actively provide material or financial support to or are benefiting from the Russian decision makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea or the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine.” The final list of names will probably not be announced until next week.The meeting will hear proposals for an arms embargo and financial restrictions, but it is not clear whether a further foreign minister meeting or even an extraordinary summit would be needed to give them the green light.
Meanwhile, serious tensions are seething beneath the surface. The EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger seemed to rule out sanctions on Russia’s energy sector. And major European powers have descended into bickering. Open Europe:
Following David Cameron’s criticism of France for its planned sale of two Mistral warships to Russia, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told TF1 yesterday, “The British, in particular, have been extremely kind, so to say, by telling us, ‘We would have never done that’. I told them, ‘Dear British friends, let’s also talk about finance. My understanding was that there were quite a few Russian oligarchs in London’.”Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, the leader of French President François Hollande’s Socialist Party, called the discussions over the sale of Mistral warships to Russia “a false debate led by hypocrites. As regards David Cameron, when one sees the number of [Russian] oligarchs that have sought financial refuge in London, one should start from putting his own house in order.”
Though there are rumblings that France may not deliver the second warship, Europe still appears far from being able to speak with anything approaching one voice. And if energy sanctions are indeed firmly off the table, that not only takes some of the direct pressure off of Putin, but also signals to him that his energy cudgel is still quite effective at keeping the Europeans largely passive.