Europe has faced sanctions against Russia. It’s not that high. – POLITICO

Nicholas Vinocur is the editor, POLITICO Pro.

Europe’s support for Ukraine went against an unshakable limit – limited tolerance for pain and sacrifice.

In the days following Russia’s invasion, the European Union stunned the world with its rare unification on everything from sanctions to arms deliveries to its warplanes. Ukraine.

But as the war continued and Russian bombs dropped on residential areas of KyivThe EU has reached a painful threshold and is weighing sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin. Against the backdrop of the most serious threat to Europe’s security and democracy since World War Two, EU leaders refused to stop buying Russian gas and oil that financed the war, and even stop setting a date for when they can do so.

On Saturday, the leaders rolled out a new package of sanctions that will affect luxury goods exports to Russia and make life more uncomfortable for Putin’s oligarchs. However, these measures are designed to avoid fulfilling any major needs of the people of Europe, who are already struggling with higher energy prices than the suffering of Ukrainians huddled in the water. underground bomb shelters.

The refusal to consider tougher sanctions against Russia underscores a return to the rise of EU leaders.

Instead of following the momentum of the early war days, they are trying to protect their populations from the effects of higher energy costs through price caps and subsidy programs.

Rather than deal a blow to Putin’s wartime economy today, they promised to stop buying his gas and oil at a future date that has yet to be determined. (EU countries even pushed back their proposed date to 2027 to end the bloc’s reliance on Russian gas, saying they wanted to have this conversation in May).

Color schemes are not new. That’s part of a pattern going back to 2006, when EU leaders first discussed diversifying away from Russian gas. That discussion continued into 2009, after Putin attacked Georgia, and rekindled in 2014 after the Crimean invasion, after which Russian energy purchases actually increased.

The difference this time is that the danger to European democracies is real. It is at the very threshold of the block, pulling closer each day the conflict continues.

Faced with an all-out assault by Russian forces, the Ukrainian government is begging the EU to strengthen sanctions, including by banning Russian energy imports. “This is diesel in the blood. It will be sold for money and that money is used by Putin to buy weapons and ammunition that are killing Ukrainians,” said Oleg Ustenko, economic adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, told the BBC on Saturday.

However, EU leaders appear more concerned about protecting their economies than confronting Putin. When someone suggests that the Europeans might pay a price for stopping the invasion, it is given under the most precise conditions possible – as when French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire suggested that every people may have to reduce the heat in their home by a degree or two. to offset higher energy costs.

“We are all going to have to make an effort,” he said, quickly adding: “The Economy Secretary is not here to tell you to do this or that. I’m just saying that in general, we’re going to have to be much more careful about how we use our energy. “

Redux yellow jacket?

It’s not hard to see why the likes of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and French President Emmanuel Macron are worried about the impact of cutting off Russia’s energy supplies. European economies depend heavily on it; The abrupt halt would cause the economic pain Le Maire faced compared to the oil shock of 1973.

In France, the memory of the Yellow Vest protest movement – which began with outrage at the proposed fuel tax – is still fresh. The 2019 protesters who used a forklift to break down the door of a French ministry are the same people who could protest higher fuel prices if pro-Ukrain sentiment declines, said Jean-Daniel Lévy, pollster. comments by Harris Interactive said. “Purchasing power is the number one concern of French voters,” he said.

But EU governments have strategic gas reserves to keep them running for the next few months. A country like France, which relies heavily on nuclear power, can weather the storm without too much damage. Highly dependent nations like Germany will have to make clear choices in a short period of time, including whether to end the use of nuclear energy.

Such choices are important and have the potential to cause economic and political pain. But it is possible that leaders are worrying more than they need about public opinion – because the Europeans themselves are not saying they have had enough.

Opposite: Theo a poll published last Friday by France’s Jean-Jaurès Institute79% of Europeans voiced support for the bloc’s sanctions against Russia. A strong majority, 62%, support Kyiv joining the European Union and 68% support the creation of a European army.

What the poll did not set out was whether respondents would support tougher sanctions on Russia, or whether they would be willing to go through a full-blown energy crisis as a result of the war. or not.

But the answers showed that the Europeans were willing to do something. Even if that means wearing a sweater to support Ukraine. Europe has faced sanctions against Russia. It's not that high. - POLITICO

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