Sunday

20th Aug 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 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.

News in Brief

  1. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  2. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  3. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  4. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  5. Russian power most feared in Europe
  6. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  7. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  8. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  2. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  3. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  5. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  7. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  8. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  10. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  11. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  12. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides