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EU Countries Coerced Into Anti-Russian Sanctions

It only takes one country to block renewal of sanctions, but US influence reigns supreme 

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Originally Appeared at German Economic News.  Translated from the German by David Norris

The EU must now unexpectedly deal with new sanctions against Russia at its summit. It was actually expected to wave through the extension quietly on a technical level because Angela Merkel wants to comply with the wishes of the USA. For a long time, some countries have been seething inside and keeping a tight lip about it.

At the end of the week the EU summit [17, 18 December] must unexpectedly deal with the issue of extending the economic sanctions against Russia. This was announced by the EU Foreign Policy Chief, Federica Mogherini, on Monday at a meeting of the EU foreign ministers in Brussels. Mogherini tried to play down the incident. She claimed to see no real resistance in any EU member against the Russian sanctions and expects a further six-month extension of them. Italy had the previous week prevented a decision by the EU member countries to implement an extension and asked for talks at the highest level.

A number of countries hate the sanctions. Sanctions have increased unemployment. However, it is not yet allowed to give this as an official reason and this puts more pressure on the national politicians. The EU is not able to use the sanctions as an excuse to break ranks, although the damage to the EU economy is in this instance a result of the political bondage that exists between the EU/ Ms Merkel and the United States. Most of the EU members rejected the sanctions from the start, but Joe Biden made it publicly clear that the US would force the EU to give in.

In fact, some EU countries are quietly seething inside because the sanctions inflict substantial damage on individual economies.  In Italy, the former EU President Romano Prodi warns of economic disaster. The Greeks were always against the sanctions and could this time try to grind out an extra-deal. The reason is that the bankrupt country must find billions to pay for measures to deal with the refugees. Hungary fights the EU because of the energy policy. Austria has taken a lot of damage, which drove the otherwise level-headed President of the Chamber of Commerce into a fit of rage.

The French are trying to keep one foot in each camp. Officially they go along with the sanctions but deal with the Russians behind the scenes in any way they can. Even the German economy dares discreetly to defy Angela Merkel. The East Committee of the German Economy [Ostausschuss der Deutschen Wirtschaft] is strictly against sanctions. Admittedly, its chairman Ekkehard Cordes, was forced to step down. Whether or not his resignation was related in any way to his criticism of Merkel remains unclear.

The EU-imposed economic sanctions on Russia after the shoot-down of the passenger plane MH17 in the Ukraine in July, 2014. Among other things, the sanctions focus on the Russian state banks, the import and export of armaments, as well as the all-important Russian oil and gas industry. According to the present state of affairs, the sanctions run until the end of January 2016. The whole reason given for the sanctions; namely, that Russia shot down the plane, remains to this day unproven.  

Actually, any EU member could easily block the sanctions with a veto. This is unlikely to happen. All EU members will either be put under such massive economic pressure because of their “all for one” mentality, or they simply cave in because their governments are very weak. Austria is an example.  As a result of his embarrassing crisis management of the refugee situation, Chancellor Faymann now stands with his back against the wall. All other EU members will keep to themselves and not get within firing range of Angela Merkel, who is very much in favor of an extension of the sanctions.

The EU plays an uncomfortable role in this process. It doesn’t mediate that which is in the interest of all countries, but carries out whatever the US demands. This week a special commissioner will travel to Europe in order to "help persuade" those that choose to get out of line.

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