European Council President Donald Tusk stated last week that the European Union will extend its existing economic sanctions on Russia this month. This decision is to be taken at a summit of EU leaders on Dec. 13-14. The EU measures against Russia’s defense, energy and banking sectors should become another “punishment” for Moscow’s role in the turmoil in Ukraine and the naval skirmish in the Sea of Azov.
Though at a news conference in Argentina Donald Tusk told that “Europe is united in its support to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is why I am sure that the EU will roll over the sanctions against Russia in December,” situation is not so univocal.
Among main supporters of sanctions are traditionally Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
Lithuania’s president has condemned Russia’s “aggression against Ukraine” after a naval incident. Even Lithuania’s conservative Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats (HU-LCD) proposed that the Seimas pass a resolution calling for additional sanctions on Russia after it seized three Ukrainian Navy ships.
Poland insists that Russia should be responsible for its aggression in the Kerch Strait, the European Union should impose sanctions, Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz has stated.
At the same time, Special Adviser to Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Deputy Director of Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) Nathalie Tocci in her article on the EU Global Strategy “Europe’s Russia sanctions are not working” wrote that the situation in the Sea of Azov suggests that although EU leaders are likely to maintain their united support for sanctions, the current sanctions policy is no longer able to contain the conflict. (https://www.politico.eu/article/europe-russia-sanctions-are-not-working-ukraine-azov-sea-kerch-strait-vladimir-putin/)
The more so, Germany and France are against hitting Moscow with a new round of sanctions following a maritime clash with Ukraine, and instead want to improve trust between the nations, a media report suggests. High-ranking diplomats from France and Germany favor tackling the renewed Russian-Ukrainian tensions with more “trust-building measures,” reported German paper Die Welt. (https://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article184580506/Russland-Ukraine-Konflikt-Trump-droht-mit-Absage-des-Treffens-mit-Putin.html).
It has become a tradition that any difficult question in the EU divides the organization and often makes it even weaker. In many cases consensus is at least reached but the number of dissatisfied members grows.
The EU ineffective foreign policy represented mainly by sanctions does not stand up to scrutiny. It is obvious that countries which want to change the European mechanisms of influence are economically strong. Those states that support sanctions are highly dependent on the US. The United States in its turn struggles for its economic interests in Europe using the support of the Baltic States. The role of these small countries is very unenviable. They are thankful to the US for help and are to follow all its political decisions. On the other hand they have lost their voice as sovereign actors in Europe, because they defend the US interest, not the European ones. Their “ready to support” image looks sometimes ridiculous and even masochistic, because they harm themselves trying to please the US.
And Russia just laughs at all attempts to punish her. Sanctions are not effective and no new tools are developed to influence Moscow. Sanctions today should be changed to more effective mechanisms. As for the Baltic States, they should take courage and admit that their foreign policy only hurt their image.
*Viktors Domburs is an engineer, born in Latvia, and now lives in the United Kingdom.
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