Brussels is going "all in": asking EU members for a blank check

Brussels is going “all in”: asking EU members for a blank check

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At the very least, the EU member states say they agree that harsh sanctions will have to be imposed on Russia if Kremlin Tsar Vladimir Putin decides to invade Ukraine. That being the case, the European Commission has taken the reins of the decision on possible new sanctions, without their details being officially shared with European chancelleries either individually or in the group of 27, according to Brussels sources quoted by Bloomberg.

According to US and British intelligence services, Russia has deployed more than 130,000 troops near the border with Ukraine, but still denies any intention to attack its western neighbor.

The package of sanctions, kept (still) in the drawer

Non-disclosed diplomatic sources confirmed to Bloomberg that the EU executive did not provide written and concrete details to the 27 member states, which should provide unanimous support for any sanctions. The sources cited indicated three reasons why the Commission preferred not to distribute the documents to the capitals of the Member States.

First of all, Commission officials want to avoid leaking information that could give Russia the opportunity to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of possible sanctions.

Secondly, the measure comes in order not to highlight the differences in approach between European states, especially if national officials start to discuss and criticize one measure or another in the sanctions package.

Thirdly, EU officials said that these concrete proposals would be made public only if Russia acted aggressively against Ukraine, given that the set of sanctions was not intended to be a deterrent, but a tool of a deterrent nature. punitive.

Some details from the negotiations

However, the largest EU countries have worked on various variants of the sanctions package either individually or in small group discussions, but also with US or Commission officials. Thus, the details of several proposals made their way into several press releases.

Possible measures could be adjusted in severity, depending on field events and an assessment of the severity of Vladimir Putin’s actions.

Broadly speaking, the sanctions fall into several categories, including restrictions on the refinancing of Russian sovereign debt, financial sanctions and the individual sanctioning of individuals and entities close to the Kremlin.

According to the sources quoted, the Commission did not hold an extended group discussion with all Member States on the details of the potential sanctions, with the major Western European countries being among the countries most keen not to disclose the details.

Instead, the Commission held individual talks with Member States to assess the economic impact that the measures could have on them, say the diplomats quoted. Thus, the most important conclusion that emerged from the talks was that trade restrictions have the potential to have a major impact on European economies, with concerns that Russia could retaliate by limiting energy exports on which many countries depend, including, of course, major, Germany.

Some Member States have made their own internal calculations and offered suggestions to the Commission, including on the establishment of “red lines” in relation to Russia.

Italy, Germany and France have been most involved in coordinating the sanctions package with the Biden administration and the Commission, and Germany has made efforts to ensure that the energy sector is – at least in part – set aside in the package. it was to impose some financial sanctions, according to people familiar with the matter and documents consulted by Bloomberg.

The quoted sources stated that the elimination of Russia from the international payment system, SWIFT, is an option not to be taken into account.

US-EU coordination, total, but not really

Although, in official statements, the US and the EU say they are coordinating their sanctions system, they may not implement the same measures against Russia in the same way.

Another EU diplomat added that the lack of concrete details provided to Member States has limited their ability to prepare in detail for the economic consequences of any sanctions.

However, Peter Stano, a spokesman for the EU’s Department of Foreign Affairs, argued that the talks remained public and vague for good reason:

“At this stage, it is premature to discuss concrete proposals, because they depend on Russia’s actions and could become a reality only in the case of concrete Russian actions. Those proposals should then be discussed and approved by the Member States, “said Stano.