Though Greece’s move yesterday to block an expansion of sanctions on Russia leaves the outcome of today’s meeting of European foreign ministers in question, Reuters has gotten a glimpse at what the proposed resolution coming out of Europe might look like.The most likely outcome, it turns out, would be a fairly humble achievement: the extension of asset freezes and travel bans on various individuals, imposed last March in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, with some more names to be added to the list later this week. Astute readers will recall that EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini’s leaked memorandum, which was said to represent the views of the more dovish European countries, never called for the lifting of the March sanctions. The June sanctions—the broader sectoral sanctions—imposed after easter Ukraine started heating up, were the ones many European countries would apparently be happy to see lifted.Reuters spoke to unnamed officials who indicated they would like to see a broader effort announced today:
A second official said the new measures against Moscow could involve a shortening in the maximum maturity at which Western institutions and investors could lend to Russian companies.That would make it harder for vital corporations in the energy sector to refinance themselves.The officials said one measure under consideration could make it harder or perhaps impossible for Western institutions and investors to buy Russian sovereign debt on issue in the primary market.Both officials mentioned the possibility of imposing further restrictions on Russian access to advanced technologies in the oil and gas sector, which would make Russia’s ambitions for Arctic exploration more difficult.
If these kinds of broader sanctions appear in today’s announcement, it will represent a real sea change in European attitudes towards Russia, especially among the more skeptical countries. If not, however, this meeting will be about putting on the bravest possible face on a very brittle European consensus—a brittleness Vladimir Putin has been counting on and exploiting all along.