The EU is planning sanctions
Foreign ministers from the 27 member states of the European Union will meet in Brussels today to discuss whether to impose further sanctions on Russia for poisoning and imprisoning Alexei Navalny. The conference will also be attended by U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who will sign up for a video call.
The verdict of a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence to be handed down against an opposition politician was upheld by the appellate court just over the weekend. Navalny was poisoned with Novics neurotoxin in Russia back in October, having recently returned to his homeland after treatment in Germany, where he was arrested almost immediately.
The meeting is also expected to decide on action on the coup in Myanmar and a resolution on last year’s Venezuelan elections.
We can expect weak action
Representatives of the single market will almost certainly decide whether to impose further sanctions on Russia.
- German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told Reuters that he would like to see more sanctions imposed on Russia that would affect some individuals.
- The Lithuanian president made a statement a few days ago that the sanctions imposed on Russia are “inappropriate” and that further action is needed. He added, however, that probably not everyone will be of this opinion, but Lithuania is also directly threatened by its proximity to Russia.
- Polish President Andrzej Duda has a similar view, he said: “It is absolutely justified” to impose additional sanctions.
- Hungary has also signed an EU resolution condemning the Navalny case, but it is unclear whether the government will support further sanctions.
The sanctions imposed will take effect from March.
It is also likely that comprehensive, severe sanctions cannot be expected from the EU. There is a good chance it can be linked to the Navalny case Russian individuals will be banned from entering, and some They will also be able to freeze access to assets stored in the EU. It is not even clear whether those belonging to Putin’s inner circle will be targeted with punishments or only people who were directly involved in Navalny’s imprisonment, such as judges, lawyers, officials.
The sanctions are therefore unlikely to affect the Nord Stream II pipeline or the Russian economy as a whole. After the EU has been punished, it can therefore safely declare that it has taken action to defend Russian democracy, but it will not substantially harm its important economic partner.
Poland, the Baltic states and America will also be able to lobby for tougher sanctions, but there is little chance they can make a real difference.
The question is what the Russian answer will be
Russia also expects to receive further sanctions from the EU, so they tried to communicate dramatically to avoid this outcome.
Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, recently announced further sanctions
Russia is ready to sever all ties with the European Union.
It would be surprising if this happened, as such a drastic move would not be commensurate with moderate action by the EU. Russia can only decide in this way if it feels realistic that they will receive new, more serious sanctions from the single market, which is not the case now.
The most realistic scenario is that Russia will also respond by expelling and banning certain individuals and diplomats, and then they will throw in some even more serious measures, which will not happen in the end. Russia’s response so far to previous EU and US sanctions has been almost always proportionate and they did not seek punitive escalation.
Russia is the EU’s fifth largest trading partner and Russia’s most important. In 2019, there was € 232 billion in trade between the two markets, even though trade in certain commodities has been banned since the 2014 Crimean annexation.
So far, it is not at all in Russia’s interest to sever all ties with the EU, as that would be a huge self-goal.
Incidentally, there is also a debate between the EU and Russia on the front of coronavirus vaccines:
Cover image: Konstantin Zavrazhin / Getty Images
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