As it has every six months since the 2014 accession of Crimea into the Russian Federation, the European Union is set to vote on extending sanctions against Russia. While this is always a battle, with several nations expressing doubts about the merits of permanent sanctions, officials say the December vote should pass.
But after that, it’s a lot less clear. The EU sanctions have primarily been surviving on the back of pressure from the US, and from Western European nations with little trade to lose in continuing the sanctions. The election of Donald Trump in the US may signal a shift in US policy, with Trump saying he believes better relations with Russia are desirable.
That’s a big shift in the EU sanctions’ momentum, with the Brexit also dramatically weakening the impact of Britain’s support for the sanctions. Nations like Hungary which have long been skeptical may have all the more reason to resist extensions beyond the current one, meaning the sanctions would effectively end in mid-2017.
EU sanctions against Russia require unanimous votes, and recent extensions have required considerable debate and negotiation to keep them intact. A lot of eastern European nations have serious business interests with Russia which they’d prefer to see uninterrupted.