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Analysis-EU faces a complex task as it tries to agree Russia sanctions -Breaking


Robin Emmott and John Irish

BRUSSELS (Reuters), – While the European Union has stated that it would impose severe sanctions on Russia if Russia invades Ukraine, diplomats and officials insist that this threat rests on complex negotiations involving all 27 EU member countries.

They claim that an invasion within the next few days would be premature for EU negotiators, who still need to come up with a set of measures on which all parties can reach agreement.

Moscow claims it doesn’t plan an invasion. It has also accused the West, in hysteria, of building up troops near Ukraine’s borders.

The EU is less dependent on energy than the United States, which makes it more challenging to reach a agreement. A senior EU diplomat said that achieving political agreement can be more difficult. There is no “free lunch.” Because we have such a strong relationship with Russia, there will always be economic pain.

There was no immediate information on which EU country has been most reluctant to negotiate or when the bloc may be willing to lift sanctions that it claims will have “massive implications and severe cost”.

Secret talks are held between EU capitals, and the bloc’s executive body, The European Commission. They do not meet as a single group in Brussels.

“Conversations with members are underway. These conversations are not open to the public. “Moscow is skilled at exploiting divisions,” stated a second EU diplomat.

The EU’s economies are less exposed to the United States than those of the United States. According to EU data, their exports to Russia fell by five percent in the years after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. This led to Western sanctions being placed on Moscow.

The EU’s top Russian gas user, Germany will play a crucial role in the negotiations. The need to impose tough sanctions is not seen as a major difference by diplomats between France, Germany and the EU’s other big power.

Russia ranks fifth in the EU’s trading partners and supplied 44% to the EU with gas imports for 2020. EU data shows that gas is responsible for between 75% and 100% of imports of gas in Bulgaria, Hungary Slovakia Slovenia Slovenia Romania Latvia Estonia Finland.

Italy and Germany are two of the largest exporters to Russia with their sales in a range of sectors, including mining and manufactured goods.

Many countries want to understand what triggers sanctions. This question was privately brought up by EU foreign ministers last month at their meeting. Viktor Orban from Hungary, the Prime Minister, stated that sanctions are counterproductive.

For now, we are just focused on the package. A third EU diplomat said that the question about when they would be activated has not been resolved. 

Experts from Western militaries say that Russia could intervene in Ukraine by a variety of covert actions, such as arranging a coup or cyberattacks.


Conscient of the delay in applying EU sanctions to Belarus for cracking down on protests on the streets in the ex-Soviet republic in 2020, the European Commission has begun to make proposals about sanctions.

After consultations have concluded, the EU can begin to discuss their respective countries, in order to produce something for EU leaders should Russia invade.

EU officials and diplomats say that sanctions against the US would be different from those for the EU and nothing is off limits. This includes punitive actions over the SWIFT global international interbank payments system which allows Russian money to flow.

A clear grading system or “escalation ladder”, of the severity of sanctions would exist, depending on Russian actions.

As a first step, Russia would hit Russians with asset and travel freezes as well as bans. However, the EU has not created a list of names yet. This is despite the fact that there are many people who agree with the idea of Putin not being a target due to the EU’s desire to preserve diplomatic channels.

The EU, however, is not like the United States who want to attack Russia’s elite economic class with Western funds. It says that it needs clear evidence to prove oligarch wrongdoing. Otherwise, European courts could challenge the EU’s sanctions.

More agreement exists on the imposing of sanctions against Russian defense companies and imposing export controls on Western technology. This could be linked with artificial intelligence.

Others include the extension of a ban on state-owned companies doing business in the EU and sanctions against specific Russian products. However, local Russian branches are available from Austrian, Hungarian and French banks.

Russia may limit gas supply to Europe, making the energy sector sanctions more difficult. Germany may take punitive actions against Russia over Nord Stream 2, a newly completed gas pipeline linking Russia and Germany. Berlin will have to make tough decisions before taking any action.

The possibility of pursuing Russia’s coal industry is under consideration.