A Heavy Lift
Will EU Sanctions on Russia Survive US Pullout?

If Donald Trump decides to lift sanctions on Russia, the Europeans will more than likely follow suit. Here’s exactly how the dynamic will work:

European Union sanctions on Russia are pointless, the frontrunner in France’s presidential election Francois Fillon said on Monday during a visit to Berlin, warning of a risk that Russia and the United States forge links that exclude the EU. […]

“I am convinced that the economic sanctions are totally ineffective,” Fillon told reporters after meeting Merkel in Berlin. “We must find another way to talk.”

He added: “I do not want (U.S. President Donald) Trump to talk with Russia at our expense. It would be damaging for Europe if Trump went above our heads, which is not inconceivable.”

Though pro-EU upstart Emmanuel Macron is surging into third place, buoyed by a lurch leftward by the Socialists, it still looks like the runoff will be between Marine Le Pen and Francois Fillon, who both are for lifting sanctions. Adding France to the list of countries that are already opposed—Hungary, Italy, Slovakia—and the shrinking clout of sanctions stalwart UK, will make it all but impossible for Brussels to hold the line. And even if Macron somehow triumphs, the optics of Washington striking profitable deals with Moscow while the Europeans suffer on principle will make the argument harder and harder to make.

That all said, Donald Trump lifting sanctions is anything but a foregone conclusion. For one, the dealmaking with the Russians may not go as smoothly as his team anticipates. A member of the upper house of the Duma said that Russia would not make any concessions on matters it deems to be vital to its security in order to lift sanctions, which it considers were imposed for no good reason in the first place. And high-ranking officials, including PM Dmitry Medvedev, have been pouring cold water on the prospect all week. For another, a bill with some bipartisan support is wending its way through Congress which may tie the President’s hands on the matter. Tearing up trade agreements may be a lot easier than getting a proper reset with Putin done.

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