21st Century ‘Appeasement Policy’? – EU Divided on Sanctions against Russia

Written by | Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Unlike Washington, which is threatening to sanction Moscow, Brussels has announced that it would probably not take punitive measures against Moscow for having used its military forces in Ukraine. The European Union is expected to push for mediation and political dialogue between Ukraine and Russia in lieu of sanctions and similar measures. This will likely leave Brussels behind Washington as US Secretary of State John Kerry has already threatened Moscow with trade restrictions, visa bans, and asset freezes following the seizure of Crimea.
As Mr Kerry put it, American firms might start considering whether they want to engage in business with the country that behaves “like that” and compared Russia’s latest actions in Ukraine as “something out of the 19th century”. As to the Europeans, EU governments are thought to take more cautious steps when dealing with Russia, not forgetting that many EU members are completely dependent on Russian oil. Therefore, any threats of sanctions are unlikely to be pronounced aloud.
Instead, EU’s core states, Germany, United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands as well as Finland, which has borders with Russia, prefer mediation to anything else in order to calm the crisis. German Chancellor Angela Merkel even proposed a “fact-finding mission” and a political dialogue when speaking to President Putin over the phone on Sunday (March 2).
The moderate approach to dealing with Russia among many European nations stems not only from their dependence on Russia’s natural resources and mainly oil, but generally from tight economic ties that Europe and Russia maintain. In addition to the fears of economic consequences that sanctioning Russia could trigger off, there are also concerns about legal obstacles that sanctions require as well as the issue of the timing of potential sanctions. Although the United States condemned Russia’s action in Crimea as breaching international law by invading the sovereignty of an independent state, Moscow says it merely protects the lives of its citizens.

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