The Telegraph‘s Evans Ambrose Pritchard seems to have gotten wind that European powers are lining up behind a reasonably muscular version of a proposal for “Tier 3” sanctions, which was leaked yesterday to various news outlets. Pritchard:
This moment of reckoning is suddenly drawing closer. The EU’s 28 ambassadors met for a second day this morning to grapple with draconian proposals put forward by the European Commission.They appear to have reached broad agreement. A cell at the Commission will draw up the legal acts over the weekend.There will be haggling over compensation for those on the front line when the package goes to foreign ministers for final ratification early next week. The sanctions may yet unravel. But the message from diplomats this morning was that even Cyprus, Bulgaria, and Hungary seem to be acquiescing, however reluctantly.There is no longer a rift between Britain and Germany. The two powers are working in tandem, backed by the Dutch, Swedes, Danes, Poles and Baltic states. The French are not as dovish as might have been inferred from the debacle over Mistral warships sale to Russia, seen in Paris as a painful embarrassment.
Guesses as to how devastating these sanctions will end up being if they pass next week differ by outlet. OpenEurope and Reuters are less convinced that the impact will be cataclysmic, while Pritchard notes that markets have already tightened up in anticipation of massive capital flight out of Russia.The significance of the sanctions may not be in the actual impact they have, however. If Pritchard is right, it could be a sign that Western powers have finally concluded that Putin is not interested in compromise. The emerging consensus in European capitals after the MH17 disaster was that the accidental slaughter of 298 innocents would come as such a shock to Putin that he would be forced to rein in his proxies in Eastern Ukraine and scramble for the dignified off-ramp that the EU has all this time kept open to him.Putin for his part has been very consistent throughout the crisis, showing no interest in off-ramps of any sort. Since the downing of the Malaysian jet, two more Ukrainian planes were brought down over Eastern Ukraine, and United States officials claimed this morning that Ukrainian troops have been fired upon from across Russia’s border.Has Europe woken up? Given previous tough talk that has come to naught, it would not be wise to bet on it until one sees the EU’s sanctions signed, sealed, and delivered. But maybe, just maybe, Western leaders have finally come to see that Putin only calculates in zero-sum terms.