The big EU states and the US are committed to keeping the sanctions in place until January and they will ride roughshod over any opposition, as they have done previously.
The Kremlin has now made the same point as we did (see On Eve of EU Vote to Extend Sanctions War Returns to Ukraine, Russia Insider, 4th June 2015) that the fresh outbreak of fighting in the Donbass is linked to the upcoming EU summit meeting to discuss the sanctions against Russia.
There has been much discussion about whether or not the sanctions will be extended in June.
There is in fact no doubt they will be extended because the big EU powers --- Germany, Britain and France --- are determined to extend them. So is the EU bureaucracy.
Those who expect those states known to be unhappy with the sanctions (Italy, Spain, Austria, Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary) to veto the sanctions at the forthcoming EU summit meeting at the end of June are setting themselves up for a disappointment.
The latest word about that meeting is that the sanctions will not even be discussed there, but that a decision to extend the sanctions will be taken anyway.
This is exactly how it has happened before.
On 5th September 2014 the EU leadership simply announced there was an EU consensus to tighten the existing sanctions without a formal meeting, claiming a consensus had been reached at ambassador level.
It would in fact be extraordinary for such an important and politically charged decision to be agreed at such a low level, without the active participation of the EU’s heads of government.
In reality what seems to have happened was that the EU bureaucracy and the big EU states (for this purpose Germany, Britain and France) simply decided to publish an announcement to tighten the sanctions, challenging anyone who disagreed with them to go public.
None of the smaller or weaker EU states that were known to have doubts about the sanctions were prepared do this and risk the mammoth row with the bigger and stronger states and with the EU bureaucracy and the U.S. that would have followed.
The result was that the decision to tighten the sanctions was simply railroaded through.
On 29th January 2015 the sanctions imposed on Russian individuals and companies were extended in a very similar way.
The EU published a statement blaming Russia for a resumption of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, pretending that this had been agreed by all EU states. On that occasion the new Greek Syriza government protested that it had not agreed to such a statement. Intense pressure was then applied to it, and it backed down. An account of this episode can be found here.
It appears that the intention this time is to railroad through the existing sanctions in a similar way. Already strategically placed leaks are appearing in the news media suggesting that the sanctions will not be discussed at the June meeting because a consensus to extend the sanctions to January already exists. See for example this article in Quartz and the following interesting paragraphs taken from an article published on 3rd June 2015 by the Financial Times:
"Senior officials are increasingly confident that the full range of sanctions will be extended into January 2016, allowing time for a review of the implementation of the Minsk ceasefire agreement.
"Such a decision would be a blow to Moscow, which was banking on France, Italy and Spain leading calls for the measures to at least be eased in some areas to reflect a calmer situation in Ukraine.
"The issue is expected to be raised at this weekend’s meeting of the G7 group of leading nations in Munich.
"With differences now narrowed between member states, some EU diplomats believe a final decision could now be taken without EU leaders even debating the matter at the summit in late June."
In reality, the fact that an attempt is underway to railroad through an extension of the sanctions without a proper discussion is not a sign that a consensus exists.
It is on the contrary proof that no consensus exists, and that the EU leaders and the big EU states do not want an open discussion of the question, which might give an opportunity for opposition to rally.
Much has been written and said about the fact that extending the sanctions this June requires the agreement of every EU state.
That might in theory be true. The reality is that the EU does not work that way.
If the big EU powers and the EU bureaucracy are resolved to extend the sanctions till January, extended they will be.
The fact that the decision will be made by the big powers and imposed on the small ones is confirmed by the Financial Times article, which all but says that the decision will actually be made not at the pending EU summit at the end of June, but by the G7 at its forthcoming summit to be hold over the next few days.
Britain, France, Germany and Italy --- the big EU states minus Spain --- are members of the G7. Importantly so is the U.S., which of course is not a member of the EU. Most EU states of course are not members of the G7. Instead they are expected to do --- and will undoubtedly do --- what the big Western powers meeting as the G7 decide for them.
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