A first round of EU sanctions against Russia, unveiled yesterday, has been roundly mocked by Russian officials as weak and meaningless. Hawks among the EU foreign ministers are inclined to agree, and are pushing for an immediate and dramatic escalation of sanctions.
That’s not going to be an easy sell, as the EU can’t impose anything that’s not unanimous, and with Russian trade ties vital to many nations, they are none too eager to make the sanctions war any more biting than it already is.
Austria is leading the opponents, arguing that sanctions are taking the EU and Russia further away from negotiations, and other east and central European nations that depend on Russia for natural gas see tit-for-tat sanctions as something that’s going to hurt them a lot worse than Russia.
Even the nations pushing the sanctions, like Germany and Britain, have important economic ties with Russia, and while Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister David Cameron both insist they’re willing to take the hit to stick it to Russia, there’s likely a limit to how much they can absorb politically.
The sanctions war is already getting underway, as Russian officials are already pushing to scrap a major military helicopter deal worth $1.7 billion with France, on the grounds that the sanctions may not make France a reliable source of such supplies.