Ukraine urges Europe to impose sanctions on Russia now rather than wait for an invasion

The tension over when and how to impose sanctions was on full display in Brussels on Monday, where Ukraine’s foreign minister met with his European counterparts, urging them to move forward immediately rather than wait for the next move of the Kremlin.

“We believe there are good and legitimate reasons to impose at least some of the sanctions now to demonstrate that the European Union is not just talking about sanctions, but walking,” he told reporters on Monday. Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian Foreign Minister. .

His remark comes two days after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky slammed the West for inaction, accusing leaders of “appeasement” and warning that sanctions issued after further Russian aggression would be too late.

“We don’t need your sanctions after the bombing takes place and after our country gets shot, or after we have no borders and after we have no economy or part of our country will be occupied,” he said in a statement. interview with CNN Munich. “Why would we need these sanctions then?”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Monday morning that Europe was ready to impose sanctions but would bide its time. At an evening press conference, he suggested the bloc could move forward if Russia recognizes the independence of two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

Shortly after, news broke that Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would indeed recognize the regions, thus referring the matter to the EU.

The question of exactly when and how to act remains controversial on both sides of the Atlantic.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the United States and its European allies had drawn up a “massive” set of sanctions to deter Moscow but would not “explain the details” because it could give Russia a chance to plan accordingly.

“As soon as you trigger them, that deterrent is gone,” Blinken said in a maintenance with CNN on Sunday.

“Until the tanks are actually moving, the planes are actually flying, the bombs are actually dropping,” he continued, “we are going to do everything we can diplomatically and with deterrence and deterrence to bring President Putin to reconsider the decision which we believe he has made.

Voices within the EU say it would be foolish to wait for Putin to launch a full-scale invasion to impose sanctions.

“We don’t need to wait for an attack, a military attack,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said Monday ahead of the meetings in Brussels.

Landsbergis cited cyberattacks, pressure on Ukraine’s economy and news that Russian troops may, in fact, not leave Belarus after military exercises as evidence that some sort of attack is already underway.

“Russia has a huge arsenal of things it can deploy before a real military attack,” he said.

He also raised questions about whether the EU was united on some of the thorniest sanctions issues, particularly whether the Russian energy sector, which is a major supplier in parts of Europe, will be excluded.

Over the weekend, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told CNBC that “everything,” including energy, was still on the table. However, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Russia’s energy sector should be excluded from EU sanctions.

“Some countries like Italy are afraid of energy sanctions and want to exclude energy from the package,” Landsbergis said. “Well, I don’t think Putin is drawing any red lines for his attack. Therefore, I don’t think we should be drawing any red lines for our sanctions.”

Some EU countries hope to target Russia’s financial, technology and trade sectors, although it is unclear where those talks stand.

For now, Europe seems to be hoping that keeping things vague will give diplomacy a bit more time.

“I think ministers have clearly decided not to put the details of this on the table at this stage, and I think that’s the right decision,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Monday. “The focus should be on preventing war rather than how we respond to it.”

Jeppe Kofod, Denmark’s foreign minister, said there was still hope that Russia would come to the table. “If they don’t,” he said, Europe is ready to impose “the most devastating sanctions, economically and politically, that Russia has ever seen.”

Mary I. Bruner