Burnt by sanctions: EU acknowledges lack of broad scope for new measures


The tenth package of sanctions against Russia will be adopted before February 24. Josep Borrell, head of European diplomacy, stated this on February 20 following the results of a meeting of EU foreign ministers. Although Brussels admitted that there is almost no potential for new economic restrictions. On the same day, US President Joe Biden paid an unexpected visit to Kyiv. As a result, Washington promised Ukraine a new tranche of military assistance worth $460 million. The Russian Federation considered this to be the preparation of the American leader for the election campaign.

Loop tightening

On February 20, a meeting of the European Council was held in Brussels at the level of the foreign ministers of the association countries. Among other things, European ministers discussed sanctions against Russia: by February 24, the EU undertakes to approve the tenth package. The head of the European Council, Charles Michel, said that Brussels had adopted “all major” sanctions against Russia, and “there are not many things that can still be done.” So the new restrictions, as expected, will rather have a symbolic character.

At the same time, as Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky noted, he must also eliminate “holes” to bypass the already introduced restrictions. According to him, the West needs to find a mechanism that will not allow Moscow to use neighboring states to circumvent sanctions. Charles Michel called it “tightening the noose”. Earlier, the European Commission reported that in the tenth package they would expand the list of goods prohibited for import into the Russian Federation (electronics, automotive parts and building materials), in total, new restrictions imply export bans for €10 billion.

The most painful for the EU of the measures discussed today remain sanctions against the nuclear industry and diamonds. The media have repeatedly written that while Hungary and France are not ready to abandon cooperation on the atom with Moscow, and Belgium does not want to lose Russian precious stones. However, Bloomberg recently reported that the G7 and the EU are discussing a system for tracking the circulation of diamonds in order to limit trade in them from the Russian Federation. The corresponding statement can be made as early as this week.

However, while a number of EU countries are counting the costs, the Baltics are in a hurry with new proposals. Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said on February 20 that it is worth imposing a price ceiling on Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies, as Russia is making “too much profit.” According to the minister, this can be done by analogy with the ceiling on Russian oil prices, which has been in effect since December 5, 2022. At the same time, Tallinn believes that the marginal cost of oil from the Russian Federation should be reduced from $60 to $30 per barrel.

The EU is also preparing personal sanctions. According to Euobserver, the new list may include at least 28 legal entities. Among them: Alfa-Bank, Rosbank, Tinkoff, Ingosstrakh and the Russian National Reinsurance Company. In addition, the EU may impose sanctions against the Popular Front and several arms manufacturers. It is also assumed that the measures will affect the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Russian Federation Tatyana Moskalkova, Deputy Chairman of the Government of Moscow Vyacheslav Duhin and the Minister of Labor, Family and Social Protection of Bashkiria Lenara Ivanova, who are accused in Brussels of the forced evacuation of Ukrainian children.

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia lives under the constant pressure of “endless sanctions”, but calmly goes through them.

Running out of shells

At the press conference following the meeting, a video dedicated to Ukraine was first played. In it, each of the ministers of foreign affairs of the countries of the association praises the Eastern European country for its courage and steadfastness.

— This Ukrainian week. Today there is a meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers, tomorrow there will be a meeting of NATO, and then a meeting in the UN General Assembly,” Josep Borrell stressed.

According to him, the ministers also discussed the Ukrainian “peace formula” prepared in the form of a resolution for the UN that day. Kyiv plans to submit this document to the meeting of the UN General Assembly on February 22-23.

At the same time, the EU did not announce new military assistance this time. Borrell only noted that the European Union should resolve the issue of deliveries of the promised tanks and artillery as soon as possible, since the coming months will be “decisive.” According to him, specific proposals will be presented already at an emergency meeting of EU foreign and defense ministers on March 6-7.

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu, however, again drew the attention of his colleagues to the fact that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are running out of shells. Tallinn has been actively promoting the implementation of the European ammunition procurement program for some time now. According to the head of the Estonian ministry, the program concerns 155-millimeter caliber artillery shells. Its goal is to deliver 1 million pieces at first.

Josep Borrell had previously rejected the possibility of realizing the Estonian initiative. According to him, the problem of lack of ammunition will be discussed at the March meeting of defense ministers.

On February 20, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba also appealed to Western countries to provide the Armed Forces of Ukraine with ammunition. By the way, he was supposed to personally take part in the Brussels meeting, but at the last moment the plans changed. As it turned out later, the reason for this was high-ranking guests in Kyiv. On January 20, US President Joe Biden unexpectedly visited the capital of Ukraine.

Went off course

On February 20, the head of the White House was scheduled to visit Poland, but he deviated from the intended course. On Tuesday morning, information appeared about the blocking of the center of Kyiv in anticipation of an important guest, who eventually turned out to be the American leader.

“Today I am in Kyiv to meet with President Zelensky and reaffirm our unwavering commitment to democracy, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the White House quoted Biden as saying.

His national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, arrived with him and said that Moscow was notified of Biden’s visit shortly before he left Washington. This was done to avoid any miscalculation that could bring the two nuclear powers into direct conflict. According to his deputy John Finer, the trip was carefully planned for several months with the participation of the White House, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies.

Joe Biden in Kyiv promised a new military aid package. It envisions “more deliveries of critical equipment, including artillery ammunition, anti-tank systems and air surveillance radars, to help protect the Ukrainian people from aerial bombardment.” In addition, additional sanctions will be announced against individuals and companies associated with SVO.

As later reported in the administration of the head of state, the new $460 million package will include ammunition for the HIMARS multiple launch rocket system (MLRS), as well as 155-mm and 120-mm artillery shells. Zelensky during the briefing said that he and Biden recorded the fact of a common vision of the development of events. In addition, the leaders discussed the possibility of supplying long-range weapons.

According to Deputy Speaker of the Federation Council Konstantin Kosachev, Joe Biden thus, in fact, began his campaign for 2024, and in the most heroic entourage, in order to prove to everyone that he can still “shake the old days.” Zelensky, the politician noted, hastened to convert the visit of the head of the White House into regular encouraging comments for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, promising that the results of the negotiations would significantly affect the situation on the battlefield. “And this means that he correctly caught the signal with which the US president came to Kyiv: show success, and quickly,” Kosachev added.

According to the director of the Franklin Roosevelt Foundation for the Study of the United States (MSU), Americanist Yuri Rogulev, the purpose of the visit was to calm the Ukrainian side, especially against the background of hitches with the supply of weapons, as well as discussions both in Europe and in the United States itself about the continuation of military assistance to Kiev .

“Now some serious events are planned at the front, so he decided, on the one hand, to show his fist to the Russian Federation, confirming that Washington continues to support Kiev, and on the other, to calm Ukraine itself,” he suggested in an interview with Izvestia.

After Biden went to Poland, where he will stay until February 22. There he will meet with President Andrzej Duda, as well as the leaders of the Bucharest Nine (Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Estonia). The White House also announced the speech of the head of the United States. In it, Joe Biden, among other things, should appeal to the Russians.

By the way, Italian Prime Minister George Meloni should also visit Kyiv and then Warsaw. She will arrive in the Ukrainian capital on February 21 to negotiate with Volodymyr Zelensky. The day before, the Italian media wrote that Rome could provide Kyiv with up to five combat aircraft if other Western partners agree.

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