EU leaders close ranks on Ukraine: We hope the best, but we are prepared for the worst

I was not on the agenda, but it was impossible to ignore it. The Heads of State and Government of the EU have met this Thursday and Friday in Brussels, and al

EU leaders close ranks on Ukraine: We hope the best, but we are prepared for the worst

I was not on the agenda, but it was impossible to ignore it. The Heads of State and Government of the EU have met this Thursday and Friday in Brussels, and although the plan was to speak only of relations with Africa, whose leaders have also attended the Community capital, the news from Ukraine have made inevitable Convene a specific informal encounter on security and threats. It was important to do so, they explain, but above all it would have been a terrible sign to not do it. If in these circumstances do not discuss the crisis nobody would take seriousness seriously.

On Wednesday, the Chairman of the European Council, Charles Michel, announced that the 27 would face the faces in a face-to-face manner to catch up, share information and try to consensual a voice and a common opinion. Without dealing specifically about sanctions, but with the subject flying over and capitalizing informal talks.

In the Ukrainian theme, France and Germany lead the main voice, being the powers responsible for ensuring the so-called Minsk II agreements, signed in February 2015 by Ukrainian President Peter Poroshenko and Russian, Vladimir Putin. For years, François Hollande (and then Macron) and Angela Merkel were the supervisors, as far as Normandy quartet is known. Now some of the faces have changed but the protagonism continues to have them. And they are precisely Macron and Olaf Scholz those who have traveled in the last week to Moscow to interview in person with Putin.

The objective of today's informal encounter is not making decisions, but assessing the situation, sharing intelligence, making an estimate as real as possible from risks, and above all to verify that the battery of sanctions that the EU (next to the US and other powers) plans to activate immediately if military aggression occurs. "There has been absolute unanimity," said Spanish Pedro Sánchez at the end of the meeting. "There is firmness and solidarity with Ukraine."

The European Commission has been working on them a few months. Community and diplomatic sources explain that although the Spirit is clear, and that they would seek to leave seriously touched the Russian economy and above all the finances of the circle closest to the Kremlin, it is being avoided to leave traces not to give tracks to the Kremlin. "Nothing is put on paper, there are no complete documents," they say. Tracks in the sense that if Putin knew safely as far as Brussels and Washington are willing to arrive (from freezing accounts of concrete people to leave Russia outside the financial system, cutting off their entities to the SWIFT system) would make a cost calculation and more precise opportunity, which could precipitate an unwanted outcome. "We hope the best, but we are prepared for the worst," summarized the Greek Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Since the beginning of the year there are very disparate positions within the EU. The Baltic and Poland countries are, always, the toughest, who ask for more forcefulness, hard hand, firmness. "The Kremlin does not worry NATO nor does he see him as a threat, his goal is to end Ukraine's independence," Latvian Prime Minister Krijnis Kari, told him. "You have to be ready to act quickly and firmly," added the Finnish Sanna Marin.

Hungary, Italy or Germany have played the opposite role in all meetings, from leaders to ministers going through ambassadors. They are the ones that have most lost with the sanctions already imposed since 2015 to Russia (from the invasion of Crimea) and the most reluctant to raise the tone. Berlin, in addition, has the great elephant in the room, the Nordstream II gas pipeline, a double-edged gun. Joe Biden seems to think that in case of aggression to Ukraine the project would be standing, but the new chancellor always avoids pronouncing openly. And the negotiation of it this week in Moscow seems to have been marked by pressing Ukraine to accept, legally, what is already a reality in the East Provinces. "We have noted that there have been signs [from Moscow], including the willingness to participate in diplomatic processes, as well as reference to the movements of troops outside the border," Scholz said dubitively. "But at the same time we are still very cautious because there is enough military power along the Ukrainian border, and in Belarus and on the coast, as for an invasion," the chancellor admitted.

Right now, NATO and the White House are very critical with the presumed Russian description. They do not have evidence that soldiers are being removed, but quite the opposite, the Secretary General of the Alliance, Jens Stolting, said on Wednesday. While Paris and Berlin are more receptive, optimistic or hopeful to messages launched from the Kremlin, which consider the best opportunity to establish a roadmap removing pressure. "Russia must demonstrate with sustained and credible movements on the ground that goes towards a real description," said Irish Simon Coveney this Thursday. "This means a significant withdrawal of both troops and equipment, we have not seen this yet".

Date Of Update: 18 February 2022, 18:17

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