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US Wants to Force EU into New Sanctions Against Russia

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Originally Appeared at German Economic News. Translated from the German by Susan Neumann.

The efforts by some EU countries to end the sanctions against Russia are likely to fail. The US government insists on extending the sanctions. The Polish EU Minister Tusk is on the side of the Americans and can control the course of the decision-making [to comply with  US interests].

The US government is demanding that EU extend the sanctions against Russia. Even when US President Barack Obama, now at the end of his tenure, tries to normalize relations with Russia, he’s not able to win over the interests of NATO, the secret service, and the neocons. Stratfor, the private intelligence group representing these groups and their interests, has clearly formulated what the US wants:

The United States has been adamant that Russia must completely implement the Minsk protocols — which call for a full return of the border between Russia and the separatist territories to Ukrainian control — before any sanctions can be eased or lifted. Russia has in turn tried to exact political concessions from Ukraine first, but Washington has maintained support for Kiev's position that the full implementation of the Minsk protocols' security components is a prerequisite for progress on the political components, knowing that Ukraine has its own significant domestic constraints on this issue.

Russia's broader strategy in Ukraine — to use the conflict in the country's East to undermine Kiev and reverse its shift to the West — fundamentally conflicts with U.S. interests in the country. This fact makes any negotiations between the two countries over Ukraine extremely difficult, no matter what the format is.

Obama doesn’t have much room to maneuver. In the case of Syria, he’s snubbed the hawks by going against their will in his attempt to reach a truce with the Russians. With every passing day, however, the government in Washington is losing some of its influence, because their term of office is almost over. The powerful players of the defense lobby, energy lobby, and tech lobby are in the process of seeking out the one who will be next to do their bidding in Washington and be in charge of government affairs. In addition, US Vice President Joe Biden is pursuing his own solid economic interests in the Ukraine, and this is the reason why he wants to completely avoid any strengthening of Russia's position.

Above all else, NATO will insist on playing hardball — and has been intent on driving a wedge between members of the EU. The EUobserver reports that Lithuania and Poland are categorically against lifting the sanctions because they see Russia as a military threat. On December 11, the two Foreign Ministers Witold Waszczykowski and Linas Linkevicius wrote a strong letter to the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR), Federica Mogherini. The contents of the letter coincide with the Stratfor analysis. In the letter, the EU President Juncker is criticized because he had argued for an improvement of Europe’s relationship with Russia.

The hardliners in Washington push their strategy with the help of a close ally. Donald Tusk is an enemy of Russia and [as the new president of the European Council], he is in a position to support the sensibilities of his Polish homeland. At the EU summit on Wednesday, he pressed the issue of "sanctions" into such a tight program, that there wasn’t time left for anything other than superficial discussion. The Wall Street Journal already suspects that this is a tactic of the US ally. That means that the EU representatives will rubber-stamp the extension after a pseudo debate. With just one day remaining before the extensively drawn-out Christmas break in EU politics, it is extremely unlikely that an EU-member has courage enough to veto.

A statement by the Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni reveals who’s really in charge in the EU. According to EUobserver, he had this to say in Brussels:

“It is true that, one year ago, Italy could have been, effectively, isolated in trying to start a dialogue with Russia, instead of building a wall. But today this is pretty much the mainstream view supported by all member states.”

Before Tuesday, the Italian economy had called for an immediate stop to the massive sanctions. So it can be assumed that even if the EU member states unanimously agree to change the current policy, they won’t be able to implement the change.

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