David Blackburn

What are the chances of Europe agreeing substantial sanctions against Russia tomorrow?

‘Somewhere between zero and minus five.’ That is the verdict of former Foreign Secretary and current Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, to the question in the headline.

The general consensus is that the European Union will not – indeed, cannot – agree substantial sanctions against Russia. European countries are, variously, too dependent on Russian trade and resources, or too weak in themselves, to punish Putin. The disagreements at yesterday’s summit were plain to see.

Europe, the narrative goes, can only agree on more provisions against ‘cronies’ who use international markets to conduct their nefarious business and then spend their spoils in the great playgrounds of the West (see Taki for details).

The union is considering an extended list of Putin cronies (to be agreed ‘by the end of the month’). The list will have a widened remit to include those who profit from or bankroll the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine. Yet, even that, it is said, has not dispersed the whiff of cosiness between East and West; the stated aim of ‘naming and shaming’ of Putin’s hoodlums has prompted capital flight, according to reports. ‘The message is: get out while you can,’ one depressed MP says.

Tomorrow Europe will show Putin what he can expect if he does not change his tune. British officials have taken heart from yesterday’s discussions, and expect tomorrow’s message to be serious. ‘We’ve been pushing for an arms embargo for a while, and this is the first time [the proposal] has made it into the wording [of a draft communiqué].’

The EU is preparing a ‘balanced package’ of sanctions on arms, dual use equipment, energy technology (eg.

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