BRUSSELS – European leaders meeting in the early hours of Friday hammered out a deal on a new set of sanctions that they say will hurt the Russian economy and leave President Vladimir Putin came under immense pressure as his army entered the invasion of Ukraine.
27 members of the block were able to push out a first set of punishments on Wednesday in response to Mr. Putin’s recognition of breakaway regions in Ukraine, and they did so in record time.
But the second package of penalties, which they describe as unprecedented for the European Union in terms of size and reach, is harder to forge consensus, even with Russian forces. approach Kyiv, The capital of Ukraine, and war in Europe, is no longer a theoretical concept, but a devastating reality.
The more the European Union relies on Russian sanctions, the more pain its own members will feel, as their economic integration deepens and spans many areas, and the bloc only are organizing a recovery from the recession pandemic they cannot afford to resist abandonment.
Experts say that sanctions are difficult to pass and the speed of movement of the European Union is impressive. But they say that given the dramatic developments in Ukraine, the leaders could have gone further, especially in cutting off Russia from Russia. system of international financial transactions known as SWIFT and punish Putin personally. EU leaders have said they may consider both entering a later stage.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was scathing in a statement posted on Facebook on Friday morning, after the summit.
“This morning, we are defending our status alone,” he said. “Like yesterday, the world’s most powerful forces are watching from afar. Did yesterday’s sanctions convince Russia? We hear in our sky and see on our earth this is not enough. “
The European Commission, the bloc’s executive body that does the hard engineering work behind the sanctions, has been preparing for weeks to prepare the set of penalties. The chair of the committee, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Friday morning that the sanctions would affect the ability of the Russian economy to function by starving it of vital technology and financial access.
“Now we have to meet the timing. We will hold the Kremlin accountable. Ms. von der Leyen spoke after the meeting that began on Thursday night and lasted six hours.
“It will have the maximum impact on the Russian economy and political circles,” she added.
Its most ambitious elements are also the most technical: The European Union will ban the export of aircraft and spare parts needed for the maintenance of the Russian fleet. Ms. von der Leyen said that three-quarters of the aircraft in the Russian aviation fleet are manufactured in the European Union, the United States or Canada, and these measures effectively mean many will soon be grounded. wing.
The bloc will also ban exports of specialized refining technology as well as semiconductors and will fine more banks – although the bloc will stop targeting VTB, Russia’s second-largest bank, which has already been crippled. by US and British sanctions, according to a manuscript describing the penalties seen by The New York Times.
And the European Union will target further Russian elites by cutting EU visa access for diplomatic and service passport holders, and by limiting the ability of Russian citizens to the deposit of new financial funds of more than 100,000 euros (about 112,000 USD) into a European bank account.
The bloc’s leaders backed the sanctions package at their meeting, but its details and legal language were still discussed by EU ambassadors and foreign ministers on Friday.
However, there are still elements that some European member states, as well as the United States and Ukraine itself, would like to be included.
One of those measures is to cut off Russia’s access to SWIFT, the platform used to conduct global financial transactions. EU officials say a major reason they are reluctant to cut off Russia’s access to the platform is that Europe uses it to pay for gas it buys from Russia – a dual dependency – and the disruption will cause big problems for the block.
But the United States and Canada were prepared and eager to take this step, and Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, pleaded for it on Thursday when EU leaders met, but the European Union did not. refuse.
President Biden said the measure was not worth discussing. “It is always an option. But right now, that’s not the position the rest of Europe wants to be in,” he told reporters on Thursday when asked why the United States did not cut Russia off from SWIFT as part of its sanctions package. own punishment.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, who has taken one of the toughest lines among EU leaders on imposing sanctions on Russia, says he and others have pushed for SWIFT is included.
Understanding Russia’s Attack on Ukraine
What is the root cause of this invasion? Russia considers Ukraine to be inside its natural sphere of influence, and it became irritated by Ukraine’s proximity to the West and the prospect of it joining NATO or the European Union. Although Ukraine is also not included in this category, it receives financial and military aid from the United States and Europe.
“Many colleagues have begged for SWIFT,” he said, adding, “But we agree that more work needs to be done to assess what it means if Russia is cut off from SWIFT.”
Imposing sanctions on Putin and his foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, is still a step too far for the European Union and its allies.
“There was consensus that they should be on the list, but we have to evaluate very clearly what that means in terms of an open relationship with these two in the future,” Mr. Rutte said. Rutte said.
And while Britain took the long steps of discussions to sanction the oligarchs on Thursday, European Union leaders, under pressure from allies, instead agreed to change the grammar. sanctions package so that such a step can be taken in the future. .
Sanctions imposed by the European Union on the Russian economy are designed to harm both sides. That’s why they’re harder to perfect and why particularly tough factors – like SWIFT, or imposing sanctions on oil and gas companies – are left out.
The way European sanctions against Russia are being shaped shows that some EU countries, most notably Germany and Italy, prefer an incremental approach to punishing Mr. fragile post-pandemic economic recovery in Europe.
On the other side are countries neighboring Russia and Ukraine, such as Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as the Nordic members of the EU and the Netherlands. They don’t want to break sanctions into smaller packages, but instead hit Putin with overwhelming economic measures that really sting.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland voiced his support for many of them in a blunt statement as he arrived for the meeting in Brussels on Thursday night.
“Say it’s cheap. Enough of these cheap words, there are enough idiots around us, trivial things,” he said. “We are buying as Europe, as the European Union, a lot of Russian gas, a lot of Russian oil. And President Putin is taking money from us Europeans, and he is turning this into an act of aggression.”
Monika Proncczuk contribution report.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/world/europe/eu-russian-sanctions.html European leaders agree to second wave of sanctions against Russia