Make your mind up! Divided EU struggling to be serious player on looming issue

Ukraine: Putin has 'framed the debate' surrounding de-escalation

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Internal divisions among the bloc’s 27 member states have left it looking “disunified about how best to stand up to Russian misbehaviour”, according to influential commentator Andrew S. Weiss. He is referring to Vladimir Putin’s action in Ukraine as he threatens to invade the country.

More than 100,000 Russian troops are currently sitting on the former Soviet Union country’s easter border – with international observers believing that an invasion is imminent.

US President Joe Biden has already warned the Russian leader that Washington will “respond decisively” if he pushes ahead with an invasion.

Despite these strong warnings, Mr Putin seems unphased by the threats.

And news that recently-appointed German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is trying to “reset” relations with the Kremlin has prompted accusations that the leading EU state is trying to “appease” Mr Putin.

The EU’s largest economy relies heavily on Russian gas and has been repeatedly accused of ignoring the Kremlin’s aggressive actions because it is in its interests to do so.

Emmanuel Macron’s France meanwhile, has threatened the Russian Federation with “grave consequences” if it goes ahead with an invasion.

Commenting on these discrepancies, Mr Weiss tweeted: “Hard for the EU to present itself as a serious player when it’s disunified about how best to stand up to Russian misbehaviour and the centre of gravity, Olaf Scholz, hasn’t made up his mind yet.”

Mr Scholz raised eyebrows last month when he took diplomacy out of the hands of the German Foreign Ministry, held by the Kremlin-critical Green party, according to Germany’s Bild newspaper reported on Monday.

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In a phone call with Mr Putin before Christmas, he said he would strive for a “qualified reset” in relations, which have been badly frayed since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, the paper reported.

As well as damaging the EU’s credibility as a global player, his actions have also been accused of undermining NATO solidarity amid a tense standoff with Russia over Ukraine.

Linas Linkevicius, a former foreign and defence minister of Lithuania, wrote on Twitter: “Let’s first ask why former European leaders more and more find refuge with Kremlin oligarchs?

“Maybe this explains why we are so weak to countering aggressor?”

EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also said that Brussels “cannot be a neutral spectator in the negotiations” over Europe’s future security architecture.

A senior EU Government minister added: “This is not a theoretical exercise right now, it is about real threats.

“In the current context, [the delay] exposes the divisions inside the union and makes us less able to respond to Russia as one.”

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