Saturday

22nd Sep 2018

Poland: Russian military drill designed to spook EU leaders

  • Kopacz (r) took over from Donald Tusk, who is now EU Council president (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Poland has said Russia’s military drill is designed to cow EU leaders into taking a softer line on sanctions at this week’s summit.

The Polish PM, Ewa Kopacz, told reporters in Warsaw on Tuesday (17 March): “I’m certain that Russia is making these kinds of gestures … in order to influence a little the decision of the European Council, which relates to extending sanctions, or, eventually, if there’s no peaceful solution and no respect of Minsk 2 [a ceasefire accord], imposing more painful economic sanctions”.

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

For his part, Edgars Rinkevics, the foreign minister of Latvia, which currently chairs the EU presidency, said member states are “not happy” about the Russian troop movements.

But he didn’t share Kopacz’s analysis.

"I don’t think this is a positive step, but we cannot link sanctions policy on non-recognition of Crimea and the situation in Ukraine to [Russia’s] military drills”, he added, Russian state news agency Tass reports.

Russia on Monday announced a five-day long exercise by its Northern Fleet and by airborne forces, in manouevres involving 40,000 troops, 41 warships, 15 submarines, and 110 warplanes and helicopters.

Part of the drill involves sending nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to its Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad.

In a separate move, Moscow on Tuesday also said it would station long-range nuclear bombers in Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine last year.

EU leaders have not yet agreed their joint summit statement on Russia sanctions.

Cyprus, Greece, Italy, and Spain have criticised them in recent weeks.

But German chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin on Monday: “The sanctions and the implementation of the Minsk plan must be connected … We’ll have to discuss what happens if it’s not fulfilled and if there are crass violations then we’ll have to speak about further sanctions”.

EU economic sanctions on Russia expire in July unless they are prolonged by consensus.

One senior EU source told EUobserver there is unlikely to be a deal on how to proceed already at this week’s summit. But he said capitals are close to reaching agreement to extend them from July until the end of the year.

He added that additional measures could be imposed if Russia suddenly escalates the situation.

“The [European] commission has done its homework and in case the shit hits the fan, we've got a proposal ready for deepening of sanctions”.

Barring other surprise drills, Russia’s next big show of force is likely to be its 9 May parade to commemorate the end of World War II.

Its defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, said on Tuesday the solemnities will see 80,000 soldiers and 2,000 pieces of hardware on show in 28 cities, with 15,000 soldiers in Red Square alone.

Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov noted that just four EU leaders - from Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Greece, and Slovakia - will come.

He blamed the low turnout on transatlantic hawks, saying: “As for the European countries’ participation, then it is affected by the actions taken by the Americans and the aggressive core of the EU”.

The Greek PM, Alexis Tsipras, on Tuesday said he will also visit Moscow in April, amid ongoing speculation he might accept Russian financial aid.

Two options on Russia sanctions at EU summit

Economic sanctions on Russia are likely to be extended shortly after Thursday’s summit or in June despite some member states’ objections, diplomats say.

EU wants continental free-trade deal with Africa

Earlier this week, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in his state of the union announced a new relationship with Africa. On Friday, his subordinates outlined the vision, promising jobs and growth by leveraging public funds for investments.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us