Sunday

23rd Sep 2018

EU wary of additional Russia sanctions

  • O'Sullivan with EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini (Photo: ec.europa.au)

The EU is wary of imposing new sanctions on Russia over Syria and over US election meddling due to the risk of a backlash, a senior diplomat has said.

David O'Sullivan, the EU ambassador in Washington, told a US Senate hearing on Tuesday (4 April) that US plans to block investments in Russia’s oil and gas sector would be difficult to follow.

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

  • Mogherini meets Trump spokesman Sean Spicer (Photo: ec.europa.au)

"Many of our member states are heavily dependent upon [energy] imports from Russia and it would be very important not to destabilise that situation," he said, according to the Reuters news agency.

The EU and US already imposed sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

These include credit curbs on Russian energy firms and a ban on sales of high-end technology.

But a US bill, the Counteracting Russian Hostilities Act, wants to ban all investments, worth more than $20 million, in the Russian oil and gas sector - including in pipelines such as Russia and Germany’s North Stream 2.

The package of sanctions is to be imposed over Russia’s aggression in Syria and Ukraine, but also due to its election meddling in the US and in Europe.

It would impose asset freezes and visa bans on people guilty of cyber attacks against democratic institutions and create an anti-corruption taskforce to stop secret Russian funding of “political parties, think tanks, and civil society groups that sow distrust in democratic institutions, [and] promote xenophobic and illiberal views”.

Despite his reticence on the Hostilities bill, O'Sullivan, the EU ambassador, told senators that he had “no indication” that EU and US resolve to maintain existing Russia sanctions was wavering.

“There is still remarkable unity of purpose between the United States and the European Union with regard to those issues” he said.

The question arose amid allegations that US president Donald Trump had shady contacts with Russia, but the Hostilities Act has bipartisan support and Trump’s security chiefs have criticised Russia in strident terms.

Kurt Volker, the former US ambassador to Nato, told Tuesday’s Senate hearing that Russia was trying to exploit issues such as the migrant crisis to “weaken Europe”.

He said it was “directly funding” divisive far-right parties such as the National Front in France and Jobbik in Hungary.

It was “engaged massively in advancing propaganda throughout Europe” and used “fake news and hacking and trolling to influence and distort European public perceptions”.

It was also using energy “to pressure governments into more pro-Russian policies” Volker said, echoing O'Sullivan's concern.

Daniel Baer, the former US ambassador to the OSCE, a multilateral body in Europe, said Russian leader Vladimir Putin wanted to weaken Western states because “strong democracies and the rule of law pose a threat to his own kleptocratic authoritarianism”.

He said pro-Trump interference in the US election was deemed by Russian spy chiefs to have been “the most successful Russian intelligence operation since the end of the Cold War”.

He also warned that Russia would try to “sabotage or skew outcomes of upcoming elections in Germany and France” by hacking, propaganda, and corruption.

“The White House should instruct the Director of National Intelligence to review our current intelligence sharing with allies and partners in Europe to identify additional opportunities … to inform our partners about Russian efforts to attack their democratic processes”, he said.

He praised a small counter-propaganda unit in O’Sullivan’s foreign service, East StratCom, for helping to raise awareness on Russian disinformation.

He also said the Hostilities act should see the US take the lead in tracing clandestine Russian money in Europe.

Interview

Khodorkovsky: Putin's betting on Le Pen

Russia will try to help Le Pen win the French election the same way it helped Trump in the US, Khodorkovsky, a Kremlin critic, has said.

Stolen Russian billions ended up in EU states

Illicit money flowing out of Russia ended up in almost every single EU state, an investigation has found, posing questions on the integrity of Europe’s banking systems.

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

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us