The Europeans still hope through dialogue to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin to renounce a possible invasion of Ukraine, but yesterday they began to prepare “heavy” sanctions against Moscow to “dissuade” him and to affirm their credibility vis-à-vis their American ally.
“We have a desire to dissuade Russia, a convergence of analysis, a collective determination to act and the desire to make the EU heard,” assured the press the head of French diplomacy Jean-Yves Le Drian, whose the country currently chairs the European Union, during an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers on Thursday and Friday in Brest, western France.
“Sanctions are on the table. The conviction is that the risk of Russian intervention in Ukraine is real and we must be ready to react,” said another minister. “We should not take weeks to agree, as was the case with the annexation of Crimea in 2014,” he stressed. A further discussion is planned for the official meeting of ministers on January 24 in Brussels, he said.
Russia has massed nearly 100,000 troops, tanks and artillery on Ukraine’s borders. She denies wanting to proceed with a military intervention, but does not convince.
“Putin is a chess player,” noted a European leader. “He is unpredictable, but now is the right time to act, because if he waits, Ukraine will be stronger,” he said to explain his fears fueled by the multiplication of incidents.
Yesterday’s cyberattack against several government websites in Ukraine confirmed the apprehensions of Europeans (see elsewhere). “It is extremely worrying. A cyberattack can precede military activities,” commented Austrian Minister Alexander Schallenberg. “It’s exactly the kind of thing we fear,” added his Swedish counterpart Ann Linde. “We must be very firm in our response to Russia and say that if there are attacks against Ukraine, we will be very tough, very strong and robust in our response,” she insisted.
The Europeans are still betting on dialogue and diplomacy. German Minister Annalena Baerbock said she was going to Moscow next week for talks “at all levels”. “Diplomacy, especially in times of crisis, is characterized by great perseverance, great patience and strong nerves,” she commented.
But Moscow showered the good will of the Europeans. “I see no reason to come to the table (negotiations) in the next few days, to meet again and start the same discussions again,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said after the meetings. deep divergences observed during the talks in Geneva with the Americans and during a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels.
“Ask Moscow if it’s a bluff”, launched Jean-Yves Le Drian.
A matter of credibility
Moscow demands that NATO undertakes in a legal and binding manner to renounce to the membership of Ukraine and Georgia, whose candidatures have been retained by the Alliance, and withdraws its soldiers from the countries which have since become members the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Europeans fear a “new Yalta”, a bilateral agreement between Washington and Moscow on security in Europe. Their credibility is at stake. Dependent on Russian gas and their economic relations with Russia, they have always been reluctant to follow the United States in the confrontation with this country.
In Brest, they never ceased to praise the “absolutely perfect” coordination with the Americans. But they are struggling to follow Washington on its sanctions options for fear of retaliation.
Energy, finance, technologies, targeted sanctions against the Russian president: the range proposed by the United States is wide and it divides, especially in Germany, where the use of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as leverage is refused by the Social Democratic Party of Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
“The credibility of the Europeans depends on their ability to adopt heavy sanctions”, acknowledged the minister.
“What counts is deterrence, it is being credible about what would be decided if Russia were to engage in a new intervention in Ukraine,” explained a diplomat involved in the discussions.
“But what a failure for deterrence if we have to apply them,” said the minister. It would mean that we failed to avoid a conflict”.
Christian SPILLMANN / AFP
Massive cyberattack targets Ukraine
Ukraine was hit by a major cyberattack on Friday, but authorities said they did not find any significant damage after this attack of unknown origin. Ukraine and its Western allies have repeatedly accused teams of Russian hackers of carrying out coordinated attacks against their strategic sites and infrastructure, which Moscow denies. Friday at midday, the sites of several Ukrainian ministries, including those of Foreign Affairs and Emergency Situations, remained inaccessible. Before the Ukrainian diplomacy site was made inaccessible, a threatening message – in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish – had been posted on its homepage by the perpetrators of the attack. “Ukrainians, be afraid and prepare for the worst. All your personal data has been uploaded to the web,” the message read, along with several logos including a crossed-out Ukrainian flag. The authorities, however, denied any data theft. The “content of the sites has not been modified and no leak of personal data has taken place, according to the information available”, assured the Ukrainian intelligence services (SBU). “Much of the government resources that were affected have already been restored, and the rest will be accessible again very soon,” they continued, indicating that sites had been deliberately disabled to prevent “the spread of attacks”.
The Europeans still hope through dialogue to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin to renounce a possible invasion of Ukraine, but yesterday they began to prepare “heavy” sanctions against Moscow to “dissuade” him and to affirm their credibility vis-à-vis their American ally. “We have a desire…