Europe and the United States try to appear united against Russia against Ukraine

The United States has refused to say exactly what it will do to Russia beyond financial sanctions that go beyond anything previously perceived and provide additional defense assistance to Ukraine.

Current and former administration officials have previously said the measures could include cutting Russia off from the international payments system SWIFT – an unprecedented move that would effectively isolate it from the world’s banks.

While Putin has denied planning an invasion, he said “the ball is in their court” for the West to respond to a list of demands issued by the Kremlin last month that would dramatically reshape Europe’s security landscape. .

NATO rejected the ultimatum, which included withdrawing troops from Eastern European countries that joined the alliance in 1997, and blocking Ukraine.

Putin has repeatedly suggested that Ukraine is not a fully independent country, forever bound by the culture, history and myth shared with its former Soviet allies in Moscow. Rather than being the aggressor, he accused NATO of moving closer to Russia’s borders.

Washington was quick to show its unity with its European allies and partners, with all sides issuing ad hoc statements warning that an invasion would be punished with severe financial sanctions.

But there were hints of division.

This week Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, appeared to express his displeasure at the EU’s absence from talks, saying it “cannot be a neutral spectator in the negotiations “.

The reality is that the EU – a diverse group of 27 countries – is not united when it comes to Russia.

Some, like Russia’s former Soviet Baltic states, want a tough approach, including strengthening the presence of NATO troops. Others, namely the great beasts of the continent, France and Germany, have traditionally pushed for compromise.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a “reset” in relations with Russia. And then-German leader Angela Merkel resisted calls for the demolition of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The two countries have close commercial ties with Russia and would suffer the consequences of any sanctions. Like most European countries, they also depend on Russia for a large part of their natural gas.

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The fear for some on the continent, expressed by Borrell, is that the talks boil down to two Cold War superpowers trying to redraw the continent’s security map.

“We are no longer in the Yalta era,” he said during a visit to Ukraine on Wednesday, referring to the 1945 conference when President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin took steps that helped split Europe in two until communism in Eastern Europe collapsed in 1989.

Borrell said the days of “two great power spheres of influence” should be over, and “in this dialogue there are no two actors alone, not just the United States and Russia.”

In next week’s talks, “the Kremlin will do everything possible to put pressure on all of these potential cracks,” Hodges said.

Mary I. Bruner