This morning we asked whether the EU would bare its teeth at Russia in response to renewed Russian aggression in Ukraine. Now, the FT reports, it looks like the EU will not expand sanctions at this time:
[…T]he EU on Thursday night looked set to defer any decision on whether to expand economic sanctions against Russia to a meeting of national leaders on February 12.In draft conclusions for Thursday’s meeting, the EU is expected only to instruct the European Commission to undertake further “preparatory work” on loosely defined restrictive measures, although the EU’s foreign service says that it has already undertaken “extensive preparatory work”.
[…P]olitical divisions in the EU are preventing a hard-hitting response from the 28-member bloc. In particular, the new radical leftwing government of Alexis Tsipras in Greece has said it has a “general reservation” on the EU’s proposals to work towards more sanctions.Nikos Kotzias, Greece’s new foreign minister, said on arrival at the meeting that Athens would work to prevent “a rift between the European Union and Russia”.
Commentators may be putting too much emphasis on the recent victory of the Syriza party in Greece when explaining the European resistance to taking harsher measures against Russia, though it’s not unimportant. But in fact, throughout the current Ukrainian crisis there has been little appetite for more sanctions across Europe. The FT notes that even Germany, which had been slowly coming around to the idea of taking a stand, is among the holdouts in the current talks.The EU’s foreign ministers agreed to extend the smallest sanctions, those against specific Russians and the like, which will come up for renewal in March. That won’t necessarily happen for the set of much broader sanctions that will expire in July. However outrageous Putin’s action in Ukraine continue to be, the European coalition against him is a fragile one.