If no US sanctions against Russia also no EU sanctions?

Read few commenst.


1. How would you assess the scenario that under President Donald Trump sanctions against Russia will be scraped?

2. Slovak PM Fico said that he expects if US will scrap sanctions against Russia many EU countries will follow. Would you expect something like this?


Jörg Forbrig, Senior Transatlantic Fellow for Central and Eastern Europe, German Marshall Fund

1. Judging by all indications now, such as the President-elect’s earlier statements or his nominations, the new administration will seek its own reset with Russia. It is still not entirely clear whether its policy will simply be a negation of that of the Obama administration, or whether there is a broader strategic rationale behind it, such as aligning with Russia to counter China. It is also hard to predict how successful such a reset will be. But it is clear that sanctions will be a central issue. Russia will certainly demand a lifting of sanctions as a prize for rapprochement. The Trump administration will be inclined to give in to this demand, and cite many of the arguments that opponents of sanctions have used in Europe: that sanctions have done nothing to change Russian behavior, that cooperation with Russia is needed to address conflicts in the world, that its digressions in its neighbourhood are not worth a major conflict or even war between Russia and the West. This will spark much debate, as major parts of the U.S. political establishment – whether Republican or Democrat – clearly favour a hard line vis-à-vis Russia. Yet the new administration is likely to ignore such objections and scrap, perhaps reduce gradually, U.S. sanctions. This will be made easier by the fact that U.S. sanctions against Russia have all been imposed by executive order of President Obama, which can be easily reversed by President Trump.

2. Sanctions against Russia have been imposed in close coordination between the U.S. and Europe. They have become the lynchpin of Western unity in the face of Russian aggression. Their possible lifting on the U.S. side will effectively break that unity. European opponents to sanctions will feel emboldened and make their case even more forcefully than so far. This makes an extension of sanctions beyond July of next year increasingly unlikely. That said, there are several factors on the European side that may mitigate against such a dynamic. First, under the impression of atrocities in Syria, committed with active Russian support, many in Europe feel that retaining sanctions against Russia is the least the EU should do. Second, there is a European Council decision from March of last year that sanctions against Russia shall be reduced only in return for progress under the Minsk agreements. In the absence of such progress, which is unlikely to be achieved any time soon, lifting Russia sanctions has no rationale. Third, German Chancellor Merkel has been the central advocate of Russia sanctions. As her political position weakened over the last year, as a result of her refugee policy, opponents of Russia sanctions in Germany and Europe-wide felt encouraged to voice their disagreement. In the meantime, however, she has somewhat recovered politically and may again be able to make her case pro Russia sanctions more forcefully. In short, the possible lifting of U.S. sanctions against Russia will certainly fuel debate on this issue in Europe but the scrapping of EU sanctions is by no means a foregone conclusion.

Juliane Fürst, Senior Lecturer in Modern European History, University of Bristol

Until a few days ago, I would have said that almost certainly Trump will cancel sanctions against Russia. Now, with Aleppo causing an outcry and the hacking scandal, I am not so sure, he can do it, even if he wanted to.

Once the US has pulled out, it all depends on to what extent Germany and France can remain strong and keep the rules of the EU intact. Again, I would say that the last few days have worked in favour of keeping the sanctions, but the general trend was one of a disintegrating front. Germany and Merkel are the only really committed sanctioners, and Merkel is facing elections, which will make her vulnerable to economic demands for renewed business with Russia.

Yet as of late the question is again entirely certain, when just a few days ago the break down of the sanction regime seemed only a matter of time.


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