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 Milestones

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

China hails human rights progress amid calls to close detention camps

Closing the gap in accelerating women’s rights: the role of medical students

EU is right place to tackle pandemic, but reform is needed, latest survey finds

Mosquitoes are helping to fight one of the world’s fastest spreading viruses – this is how

Building social good – lessons from an Asian giant

COVID-19 vaccines: MEPs call for more clarity and transparency

How to change the world at Davos

There is no recipe for a healthy mental state

Does the West play the Syrian game in Egypt?

This company is breeding millions of insects in the heart of London

Here’s how to close the $176 billion health financing gap

COVID-19: MEPs free up over €3 billion to support EU healthcare sector

Burundi election countdown amid ‘deteriorating’ human rights situation

Secure 5G networks: Commission endorses EU toolbox and sets out next steps

What lessons to draw from the destruction of Syria

Ozone on track to heal completely in our lifetime, UN environment agency declares on World Day.

Situation in central Mali ‘deteriorating’ as violence, impunity rise, UN rights expert warns

Aung San Suu Kyi defends Myanmar from accusations of genocide, at top UN court

If people aren’t responding to climate warnings, we need to change the message

De-escalation of fighting in Hodeida is key to ‘long-overdue’ restart of Yemen peace talks: UN envoy

Trade protectionism and cartels threaten democracy

Will the outcome of the UK referendum “calm” the financial markets?

What you need to know about the European Green Deal – and what comes next

“Is Europe innovative? Oh, Yes we are very innovative!”, Director General of the European Commission Mr Robert-Jan Smits on another Sting Exclusive

What is true and not true about the new Coronavirus?

EU–US: What is the real exchange in a Free Trade Agreement?

The new EU “fiscal compact” an intimidation for all people

Forget 2009, this is the real credit crisis of our time

CLIMATE CHANGE FOCUS: The fruits of sustainability and decent work

Women in Switzerland have gone on strike – this is why

Monday’s Daily Brief: global homicide figures, neo-Nazi recruitment, Kashmir, and migrants’ plight in USA

Here are 4 ways investors can influence more secure and responsible innovation

An economist explains how to go carbon neutral in our lifetime

These countries are ranked highest – and lowest – for human development

We need to rethink the way we heat ourselves. Here’s why

Human rights breaches in Guinea Conakry and Madagascar

What has changed in the French politico-economic horizon

Countdown To GSMA Mobile World Congress Shanghai 2018 Is On

How innovation from within is transforming International Organizations as well as lives

Human Rights breaches in Russia, Afghanistan and Burkina Faso

Security Council must ‘come together’ to address the plight of children trapped in armed conflict, says UN envoy

International Criminal Court acquits former president Gbagbo of war crimes in Côte d’Ivoire

How Finland is fighting fake news – in the classroom

UN envoy commends successful conclusion of Guinea-Bissau presidential election

How the tech world could make nonprofits a more powerful force

Libya: EU efforts should focus on protecting migrants, MEPs say

High-tech or ‘high-touch’: UK survey gives clues to the jobs of the future

‘This is a time for facts, not fear,’ says WHO chief as COVID-19 virus spreads

Libya: $202 million needed to bring life-saving aid to half a million people hit by humanitarian crisis

FIAT Chrysler: from Geneva Motor show to the World, and back

Parliament adopts InvestEU programme for strategic and innovative investments

INTERVIEW: UN’s top official in North Korea foresees ‘surge’ in humanitarian aid

UK voters sent strong message to May and Corbyn for soft Brexit

Climate changes and the imminent public health crises

EU and China sign landmark agreement protecting European Geographical Indications

The smartest cyber investment is collective action. Here’s why

UN chief underscores value of cooperation with Southeast Asian countries

Resolving Israel-Palestinian conflict, ‘key to sustainable peace’ in the Middle East: Guterres

Young? You should work out the entrepreneurial heart before the mind

Female African coders ‘on the front-line of the battle’ to change gender power relations: UN chief

More Stings?

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