Revealing new contours in Europe’s deep divisions over continuing the sanctions regime against Russia, as well as confirming her earlier critics’ worst suspicions about her own beliefs, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini circulated a paper to the various constituent heads of state arguing that Europe ought to consider easing the broad sectoral sanctions imposed last June if Russia shows signs of cooperating. Euractiv:
The paper said any steps by the EU would be “closely linked to full implementation of the Minsk agreements”, a truce accord in September involving Moscow, Kyiv and the pro-Russian rebels, as well as “good faith” from Russia in agreements reached on the EU-Ukraine trade accord and on Russian gas supplies to Ukraine.It also suggested making a distinction between sanctions, mostly on individuals and companies, imposed in March after the annexation of Crimea – “where no change is expected in the short term” – and those on Russian industries, imposed in June over the unrest in eastern Ukraine. These, it said, the EU “should be ready to scale down as soon as Russia implements the Minsk agreements”.Mogherini said last week that she had found Moscow officials being more cooperative on issues of global diplomacy recently, and saw that as a sign that tensions could be lowered.
An East European official interviewed by Euractiv thought that these views, though only described in Mogherini’s own paper as “food for thought”, reflect the position of both France and Italy.It’s possible that Mogherini is really seeing a new, good faith willingness to cooperate from her Russian counterparts—that an exceedingly grim outlook for Russia has brought the Kremlin to its senses, and that Putin is finally looking for an off-ramp. But given recent history and recent trends, we’re inclined to think that it’s just as likely that this is yet one more example of European officials engaging in wishful thinking and getting Vladimir Putin’s calculus all wrong.