EU’s new sanctions on Russia into force “in the next few days”: strength, weakness or strategy?

Dacian Cioloş, Member of the EC in charge of Agriculture and Rural Development, in a press conference following the Russian import ban on EU agricultural products (EC Audiovisual Services, 03-09-2014)

Dacian Cioloş, Member of the EC in charge of Agriculture and Rural Development, in a press conference following the Russian import ban on EU agricultural products (EC Audiovisual Services, 03-09-2014)

Last Saturday appeared as the possible beginning of a new phase for the Ukraine-Russia question, after a ceasefire was signed in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, between the Ukrainian government and rebels on Friday. Although both sides claimed on Saturday that the other had violated the ceasefire, the Associated Press reported that Donetsk was relative calm, the largest city controlled by the Russia-backed separatists, after months of daily shelling in residential areas.

The thud of grenades and the sound of the mortars seemed to be far all of a sudden, and people could regain some faith and get back to the streets again. Friday’s ceasefire appeared to be largely holding. But that was just illusory calm it seems, as the rest of the weekend unveiled the real thing, which is still a very uncertain and unstable situation.

First of all we should say that most of uncertainty is due to the fragility of the ceasefire agreement itself. Indeed Ukraine’s truce was breached repeatedly on Sunday as shelling was audible in the port city of Mariupol, and explosions were also heard in Donetsk. Although the atmosphere between the two frontlines on Saturday appeared immediately tense, there was calm and optimism until the night came, when the explosions filled the Ukrainian sky again. Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko is reported to have spoken on telephone with Vladimir Putin on Saturday on how to make the ceasefire last, but now a political solution appears to be a bit further away.

The other aspect that should be analysed carefully, which represents one of the main elements for the future stability of the entire matter, is the role the EU sanctions against Russia will play. And of course Russia’s reaction to them. The new sanctions, which European Union diplomats have decided to impose on Russia last week, came into force yesterday and the whole situation seems now to be on the verge of a new twisting.

Russia’s first reaction didn’t take too long to come, as expected. The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement: “As for the new list of sanctions from the European Union, if they are passed, there will undoubtedly be a reaction from our side”. Measures are complex and carefully balanced, I would say. They include the banning of some Russian state-owned defence and energy companies from raising capital in the EU. Also the EU might curb the export of dual-use technology to Moscow, such as machinery or computing equipment, and extend the sanctions to Russian individuals as well. Moreover the EU plans to add a further 24 people to a list of individuals who are banned from travel within Europe and whose assets in the region will be frozen. And this is something quite interesting. It’s evident that the new sanctions are intended to ramp up economic pressure on Russia.

The question now is though just whether these sanctions will be effective for real, or they are just a move that Russia was expecting and will not be worried about. The EU has already reached its third level of sanctions and this time apparently the aim is to act in a much more precise, almost “surgical” way. The EU is openly trying to hit influential people that consequently might try to put pressure on the Russian government for a quick resolution of the issue. In an official EU statement Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy declared indeed that the list of individuals includes the new leadership in Donbass, the government of Crimea as well as Russian decision-makers and oligarchs. And that is a fact.

On the other hand we have the “gas question”. I am sure that many of our readers often ask themselves whether putting pressure on Russia with economic sanction would affect also the European economy. It’s a fact that Europe has an enormous dependency on Russia’s gas. Countries like Finland and the Baltics are almost totally dependent on Russian gas supplies, and also southern countries like Italy would be severely affected by a “gas crisis”.

Well, the EU sanctions would affect Russia’s top oil producers and pipeline operators Rosneft and Transneft, as widely known, but won’t affect at all the gas sector and in particular the state-owned Gazprom, the world’s biggest gas producer which by the way is biggest gas supplier to Europe.

So basically we have the oil firms targeted on one side – although Rosneft would be prevented only to raise money in Europe, and not dragged away from actual business with the EU – and the gas sector untouched on the other side. Is this a sign of weakness from the European side? Or just a clever move? Whatever it might be, the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had already warned that Moscow would respond “asymmetrically” to further sanctions, intimidating that a Russian airspace ban “could drive many struggling airlines into bankruptcy”, as reported yesterday by many news outlets including the BBC.

EU President Herman Van Rompuy said in a statement that the sanctions will enter into force “in the next few days”, “depending on the situation on the ground”. Indeed the sanctions could be later suspended if the ceasefire holds, as widely announced by EU spokespersons in the last days.

The decision of taking a few more days to fully apply the measures is addressed as a way of leaving time and space in the statement “for an assessment of the implementation of the cease-fire agreement and the peace plan”.

And taking time in international affairs and diplomacy is probably the best strategy of all.

Follow @carlomotta_ on Twitter

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Energy: EU priority projects should be aligned with 2050 climate objectives

What are antibody tests and can they get the world back to work?

The 3 traps when it comes to blockchain and business – and how to avoid them

The Dead Sea is drying up, and these two countries have a plan to save it

Parliament approves seven-year EU budget 2021-2027

Baby foods high in sugar, inappropriately marketed in Europe, reveal two UN studies

‘Embrace the transformation’ to a carbon-neutral world by 2050, UN chief tells COP25

MEPs call for concrete details and novel tools to address the economic crisis

Transparency and tech together can safeguard taxpayers’ money

Commission adopts White Paper on foreign subsidies in the Single Market

Humanitarian migration falls while labour and family migration rises

More than one million sexually transmitted infections occur every day: WHO

As Libya talks resume in Geneva, UN negotiator seeks to overcome sticking points

Everybody for himself in G20 and IMF

EU Trade Ministers come together in a desperate attempt to save TTIP

UN emergency relief fund has ‘never been more critical’: Guterres

‘Starvation’ now a reality for displaced Syrians stranded in camp near Jordanian border

FROM THE FIELD: One teen’s journey from refugee camp to US school principal

Building back business: Avoiding a trade-off between resilience and growth

Italian archaeological trafficking group dismantled

Amazon wildfires are tomorrow’s breathtaker

MWC 2016 LIVE: Verizon boasts momentum for IoT platform

Only the private sector can help deliver universal healthcare in Africa

Towards a climate-neutral Europe: EU invests over €10bn in innovative clean technologies

Latin America’s cities are ready to take off. But their infrastructure is failing them

Remain united for Syrians, UN envoy de Mistura urges Security Council

Globalization 4.0 will help us tackle climate change. Here’s how

We don’t need to ban plastic. We just need to start using it properly

What is the IMF telling Eurozone about fiscal and banking unification?

How technology and play can power high-quality learning in schools

COVID-19 creates a perfect storm for the extreme weather season

Canada and EU officially sign the trade agreement that could open-up the road to TTIP

To feed 10 billion people, we must preserve biodiversity. Here’s how

Customs Union: Fake and potentially dangerous goods worth nearly €740 million stopped at EU customs in 2018

EU accused of being too nice with Gazprom in the infamous antitrust case

Here’s how blockchain could fight illegal fishing and help tuna stocks recover

We need impartial LGBT+ news to advance human rights

Ursula von der Leyen: ‘We must not hold onto yesterday’s economy as we rebuild’

3 reasons why AI won’t replace human translators… yet

Long-term EU budget: MEPs slam cuts to culture and education

New energy Projects of Common Interest for the Energy Union built on European solidarity

It’s time for financial services to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Here’s why

5 things fighting malaria can teach us about Universal Health Coverage

UN conference agrees better ways for Global South countries to work together on sustainable development

EU announces record €550 million contribution to save 16 million lives from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria

Coronavirus COVID-19 wipes $50 billion off global exports in February alone, as IMF pledges support for vulnerable nations

UN envoy says he ‘is ready to go to Idlib’ to help ensure civilian safety amid rising fears of government offensive

Coronavirus: Using European supercomputing, EU-funded research project announces promising results for potential treatment*

More women and girls needed in the sciences to solve world’s biggest challenges

Trade war or not New York bankers will have it their way

How the Middle East is suffering on the front lines of climate change

Impact of high debt levels on least developed countries ‘cannot be overstated’, says UN

This is how AI can help you make sense of the world

Dual Food Quality: Commission releases study assessing differences in the composition of EU food products

West Africa ‘shaken by unprecedented violence’, UN envoy tells Security Council

China has made a shocking food production discovery – electro culture

Have Europe’s Ukrainian wounds begun to heal?

Mental Health of Health Professionals Facing COVID-19

West Darfur tensions could see 30,000 flee across Sudanese border to Chad: UN refugee agency

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s