European leaders staged a position of the political unity of the West in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine. A closing of ranks was diluted this Thursday in the European Council during the debate on the application of energy sanctions to Moscow.
The idea of a possible embargo on Russian oil has been floating around for weeks within the Twenty-seven and was raised as an alternative to circumvent the reserves of the countries most dependent on Russian gas. The positions, however, are still very divided between those who are committed to cutting Putin’s income -Russia earns 285 million a day from the crude it sells to the EU- and those who ask for caution.
The division was already clear at the entrance to the summit, in which the leaders re-elected Charles Michel as president of the council. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo rejected the Russian hydrocarbon supply cut-off because it would have “a devastating impact” on European economies. It is the same argument used by the several Member States that have expressed their doubts about the possible consequences that a decision of this type will have, by raising the already skyrocketing price of energy.
His Luxembourg counterpart expressed himself in the same vein, defending the “gradual” approach to sanctions, the “step by step” that the German Mark Rutte also defended. The Prime Minister of Luxembourg went further and insisted that “for now the situation is not getting worse” and that, if this measure was approved, the EU would run out of ammunition to react to a possible escalation of the conflict.
Hungary is another of the countries that have been warning for days that it will “block” any energy sanctions proposed by the EU.
“Stop the war machine”
The Finnish Sanna Marin was in favor of expanding punishments in the energy field and cutting “as soon as possible” dependence on Russian oil. “As long as energy is bought from Russia we will be financing the war and that is a problem that we must address,” she stressed. That same idea was defended by the Latvian prime minister, who called for “immediate” energy sanctions to stop the Russian “war machine”.
- Reasons against.
- The economic impact and the need to reserve additional measures hold back some States
- Washington Pass.
- The US has already decreed an embargo on imports of Russian oil and gas
So did the Lithuanian, Gitanas Nauseda, who defended the need to cause “a significant macroeconomic impact” on Russia and was in favor of breaking with European dependence on Moscow.
Others, such as the leaders of Italy and Switzerland, stood out and defended the effectiveness of the sanctions agreed so far, as well as the need to ensure their application by all allies. As images of destruction in Ukraine mount, so does the pressure on European leaders for a hardening stance from the West.
The presence of US President Joe Biden at the European Council was a greater sign of unity of the allied countries that “remain united” to “defend democracy”, assured Charles Michel and President Biden. His administration decreed an embargo on Russian oil and gas at the beginning of March, a move that Europe will hardly be able to take overnight, due to its high energy dependency on Moscow. The continent imports 40% of its supply from Russia but is moving to reduce that dependence by two-thirds by 2023.