Conscripts line up at a railway station earlier than departing for navy service with the Russian Army.
Sergei Malgavko | TASS | Getty Images
BRUSSELS — The European Union is worried about Russia’s “aggressive” stance towards its neighbors, warning Moscow that it will pay a “high price” if it invades Ukraine.
U.S. officials said earlier this month that Russia could launch a military incursion into Ukraine in early 2022, with about 175,000 troops. The Kremlin has beforehand denied the accusations and the Russian authorities was not instantly accessible for remark when contacted by CNBC Wednesday.
The extremely delicate concern is about to dominate talks in Brussels on Thursday because the 27 EU leaders meet.
“At this point in time, Russia is choosing an aggressive posture vis-à-vis its neighbors. And as the European Union and its G-7 partners have made very clear, further aggressive acts against Ukraine will have massive costs for Russia,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated Wednesday.
The message was echoed by the brand new German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, in Berlin.
When addressing Germany’s Parliament Wednesday, Scholz warned of a “high price” for Russia if it chooses to invade Ukraine. Scholz additionally spoke of an openness to “constructive dialogue” with Russia, in accordance to studies from Politico.
Back in Brussels, EU officers indicated that there wasn’t a lot room for talks with Moscow. An EU diplomat, who didn’t need to be named due to the delicate nature of the talks, advised CNBC Wednesday that dialogue with the Kremlin “would only happen if the Ukraine issue was not on the table.”
This means that for talks between the EU and Russia to happen, there would want to be a vital de-escalation of tensions on the Ukrainian border.
Other officers went a step additional.
Estonia Prime Minister Kaja Kallas advised CNBC that the one manner to see a EU-Russia summit once more would be if the Kremlin provides Crimea again to Ukraine. The Black Sea peninsula was annexed by Russia again in 2014, defying Western leaders on the time.
“If we are stepping towards Russia in this regard, and forgetting all the things that we said in 2014, then we are weak because we are stepping away from what we said,” Kallas advised CNBC.
Kallas admitted that her nation, a NATO member and one among many European nations that borders Russia, is “always worried about our big neighbor.”
“We clearly see Crimea, we see Donbass [in Ukraine], we see also Georgia, they have made the steps that are hurting different countries, and therefore we should all be worried,” she stated.
On Thursday, European leaders are anticipated to state they’re united on this matter and will stand behind Ukraine’s sovereignty.
The important query is how far is the EU is prepared to go. Critics say that the continuing EU sanctions towards Russia, carried out within the wake of the 2014 annexation, don’t damage the regime of President Vladimir Putin sufficient.
But talking to CNBC, Kallas defended the European method.
“We have intelligence that the sanctions actually hurt. Russia has lost 2% of its GDP over the years due to the sanctions. And of course, Europe needs to have strategic patience,” she stated, including that financial penalties take awhile to have an effect.
Ultimately, this may be the trail that the EU decides to take.
“Our response to any further aggression may take the form of a robust scaling-up and expansion of these existing sanctions,” von der Leyen stated Wednesday.
She added the bloc might go even additional. “We are ready to take additional, unprecedented measures with serious consequences for Russia,” she stated.
There are, nonetheless, different Russian actions which have raised issues amongst EU leaders and officers. In October, Moldova’s Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita told Reuters that Russian vitality big Gazprom was not providing a conventional annual rollover of a earlier, 30-year fuel contract, as an alternative providing a three-fold price enhance. Russia denied the claims.
Von der Leyen on Wednesday accused Russia of a “blatant attempt to intimidate Moldova’s reformist government” by squeezing their gas supplies at a time when energy prices are high. She added that “we must protect our societies and our democracies from this kind of cynical geopolitical play.”
Meanwhile, EU leaders additionally see a hyperlink between tensions on the Belarus-Poland border with this wider instability.
“The situation at our border with Belarus should be seen in a wider context, mainly the deliberate attempt to destabilize the security of our democracies and those of our neighbors,” von der Leyen stated Wednesday.