With the ceasefire in Ukraine more or less holding, the question remains whether Europe will be able to keep a common Russia policy in place. In an interview with the New York Times, former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk sounded a cautious note, largely writing off the possibility of tougher sanctions at the moment, even as President Obama was reportedly looking for Europeans to maintain pressure on Moscow:
“Some politicians in Europe are ready to believe that there is a chance of good will” from Mr. Putin and from Russia, Mr. Tusk said, adding: “I am more skeptical.” There needs to be “a permanent effort” to guard against attempts by Russia to divide European leaders, he warned.
“Either by military or economic or other tools, I am afraid that Russia wants to rebuild control over the whole of Ukraine,” Mr. Tusk said.
He said the truce in eastern Ukraine — brokered by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President François Hollande of France in the Belarussian capital, Minsk — had clearly not stopped the fighting but had still helped to create a “situation that is better than before.” A new surge in fighting by pro-Russian rebels, he said, would prod Europe to strengthen its sanctions.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius notably said last month that any moves against Mariupol in an attempt to create a land bridge from Russia to Crimea would constitute a red line for France. With unconfirmed reports of an uptick in shelling outside Mariupol, perhaps we will see Europe’s determination and cohesion tested yet again, sooner rather than later.