Thursday

21st Mar 2019

US has little faith in Hollande-Merkel trip to Russia

  • Biden (l) is sceptical that Putin wants to make peace (Photo: consilium.europa.au)

US vice president Joe Biden has indicated he has little faith that France and Germany can persuade Russia to halt its offensive in Ukraine.

“[Russian] president Putin continues to call for new peace plans as his troops roll through the Ukrainian countryside and he absolutely ignores every agreement that his country has signed in the past and that he signed recently, including in Minsk”, Biden said in Brussels on Friday (6 February).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • The EU and US are also in talks on a free trade zone (Photo: consilium.europa.au)

He said Ukraine is “fighting for survival” against Russian “mercenaries and tanks and, as we say in the US, ‘little green men’ - soldiers without patches, which are sophisticated Russian special operations”.

“This is a moment in which the EU and US must stand together. Russia can’t be allowed to redraw the map of Europe - that’s exactly what they’re trying to do”.

Biden spoke alongside EU Council chief Donald Tusk, who noted “the situation is even more dramatic than 11 months ago”.

Russia in January launched a new offensive in south-east Ukraine. Kiev says that some 8,000 regular Russian soldiers are fighting alongside Russia-controlled paramilitaries in the region.

French president Francois Hollande and German leader Angela Merkel also on Friday arrived in Moscow to try to broker a ceasefire.

Both of them, like Biden, lowered expectations.

Merkel, speaking in Berlin before she left for Russia, said: “It’s totally open as to whether we will, with these talks, succeed in achieving a ceasefire … We can only do what we can to resolve this conflict and especially to end the bloodshed”.

Referring to Putin, Hollande said in Paris “if we don’t [succeed], at least we’ll know who’s responsible”.

The French and German leaders are to put forward an amended version of the Minsk protocol - a 2014 peace accord which calls for Russia to pull back its forces and to hand back control of the border in return for limited autonomy for east Ukraine.

Some EU diplomats are even more sceptical.

One contact told EUobserver that Putin, in mid-January, sent Ukraine a new ceasefire plan, with an attached map, which proposed moving the de facto border deeper into Ukraine.

“It shows he’s no longer interested in the Minsk deal”, the EU source said.

The diplomat added that with Russian forces making military gains in recent weeks Putin has no incentive to back down.

“Hollande and Merkel are going at a bad time because they have no leverage. There is no EU agreement on further economic sanctions and there is no agreement on delivering weapons to Ukraine".

“They can’t say: ‘If you don’t pull back, this is what we’ll do’. So if Putin agrees to stop, it will come at a high price”.

No leverage

EU states plan to blacklist a handful of extra Russian names next week.

The top man on the list is Russian deputy defence minister Anatoly Antonov.

Greece threatened to block the visa bans until the last minute and forced hawkish EU states to keep more senior Russian names off the register.

EU institutions have also been tasked with drawing up options for fresh economic sanctions.

But they are unlikely to be ready before March, while EU diplomats say that Greece - and other Russia-friendly EU countries, such as Cyprus - might veto the initiative.

“Russia will offer Greece anything it wants, anything, in return for its support”, the EU diplomat said, referring to a recent Russian offer to help Greece manage its debt.

For his part, Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades told the Cyprus Weekly newspaper on Friday there are “many” EU states which “support diplomatic ways [to resolve the crisis] and not additional sanctions against Russia”.

“We want to avoid further deterioration of relations between Russia and the European Union”.

The Russia-friendly camp also includes Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

EU to blacklist five Russians

EU diplomats have agreed to list a Russian deputy defence minister, two officials and two MPs over the recent escalation in Ukraine.

Greece equivocates on Russia bailout

The new Greek leader has said he isn’t interested in Russian aid “right now”, in a comment seen by some analysts as being deliberately ambiguous.

Agenda

Greece to take EU centre stage This WEEK

The EU parliament will hold its monthly plenary session in Strasbourg, but most of the political action will take place in Brussels.

Opinion

Ukraine: Brave EU decisions are needed

Franco-German diplomacy will not revive the Minsk protocol. It's time to face reality on Russia's intentions and take brave decisions, such as arming Ukraine.

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Latest News

  1. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  2. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength
  3. May tosses Brexit spanner into EU machinery
  4. Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban
  5. A compromise proposal for the Article 50 extension
  6. US glyphosate verdict gives ammunition to EU activists
  7. Have a good reason for Brexit extension, Barnier tells UK
  8. EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  3. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  5. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  6. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us