Why the EUs threat to Russia over Ukraine is empty

PMQs: Boris Johnson outlines warning issued to Vladimir Putin

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Western powers – like the US and the EU – have threatened severe sanctions and military response should Russia make such a dangerous move – but the bloc is in danger of revealing its hand too early. On Thursday, EU leaders will consider its response, after threatening Russia with huge consequences if it invades Ukraine.

One EU ambassador told Politico there are two camps causing a divide in EU thinking.

One side is arguing the EU cannot afford to use heavy-handed threats against Russia, especially given that Russia has not been directly aggressive to Ukraine yet.

The thinkers in this camp include Italy, France and Germany – the latter of which is particularly keen to get into dialogue with Russia over the suspected invasion.

A senior German official said it was important to build on the dialogue between Mr Putin and Joe Biden after the two spoke via video call earlier this week.

They iterated that Berlin wants to send a “clear signal to Russia that the integrity of borders is inviolable and that any violation would trigger clear consequences”.

Other EU countries reportedly believe the threat against Russia should be made stronger.

But another EU diplomat said that openly discussing and revealing sanctions, or other action to be taken, against Russia would reveal their hand to Moscow.

It comes as the EU sends fresh warnings to Mr Putin.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday that beyond scaling up and expanding existing sanctions, the EU can adopt “unprecedented measures with serious consequences for Russia”.

Ms von der Leyen told the European Parliament there are already economic sanctions for Russia’s finance and energy sectors due to the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Conclusions reached at the summit on Thursday will be coordinated with US and Britain.

US intelligence has warned 70,000 troops have moved closer to Ukraine’s border, and could invade as early as next year.

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The placement of troops is due to a culmination of years of disagreements and fighting in Ukraine, with Russia wanting to block its growing ties with the West.

A separatist conflict broke out in 2014 following the ousting of a Moscow backed president by Ukraine.

Russia has accused Ukraine of failing to uphold the following 2015 peace deal brokered between the two and France and Germany.

Moscow has also criticised the West for failing to encourage/enforce its compliance.

Mr Putin has long held wide ambitions for Ukraine, and has openly threatened Ukraine’s statehood before.

He has previously said Russia and Ukraine are “one people” due to their former alliance in the Soviet Union.

Mr Putin has also warned Ukraine against joining NATO, particularly as it could result in Western military training centres being placed in the country.

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