Can the E.U. Punish Russia for Crimea Invasion?


Russia ’s power play in Crimea has left the European Union in a quandary. Officials in Brussels are scrambling to respond to the acts of aggression from its largest neighbor and third biggest trading partner. European leaders across the region have voiced concern over Russia’s Ukraine strategy, but when it comes to what the repercussions will be for its maneuvers, the message has been far from consistent. Much-mooted sanctions, which E.U. rules require unanimous agreement before imposing them, look unlikely with the bloc’s leading economy, Germany , wary of such measures.

Speaking ahead of an emergency meeting of E.U. foreign ministers on March 3, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier cautioned Europe against responding to Moscow’s provocations with provocations of its own. “Diplomacy is not a sign of weakness but is more needed than ever to prevent us from being drawn into the abyss of a military escalation,” said Steinmeier. But…

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Ukraine was probably unknown to most people until recently, when the country was torn apart by violent revolution. It’s quite the terrible situation there, and while I don’t condone the use of violence to achieve things, sometimes it’s necessary to wrest control from the corrupt.

I don’t know too many details about Ukrainian politics, but I see those pictures of the opulent home that the deposed president Viktor Yanukovych, and it’s pretty clear that the upper echelons of the Ukrainian government have dirty hands. That they obeyed Russia and refused entry into the European Union implies that there may be some greasing of palms from their bigger neighbour.

The people revolted, and as terrible as the situation on the ground must be, I think it’ll probably do good overall. It won’t be easy to completely shake off the influence of Russia; but reducing it to manageable levels is possible, and joining the EU might provide some reprieve. A reliance on natural gas might also be weaned as trade doors open into the heart of Europe, and Ukraine could well blossom away from Russia’s overbearing presence.

Yulia Tymoshenko was released from prison, and that’s great news too. The revolution needs a figure to rally around, and she could be it (even if she has had her share of controversies). Maybe Vitali Klitschko will be a better rallying point than Tymoshenko; he’s built his fame as a boxer, and is probably popular in Ukraine. That he loves his country and is willing to lead it after a successful sporting career, instead of just retiring, could mean that he will run the country properly; for the people and not for personal gain. How well he does if he gains office is another matter.

The revolution could yet lead to more violence, however. Even though the government has been replaced, Ukraine is really split in half, with a pro-Russian south-east and pro-EU north-west. Russia could yet march on Kiev, and there are signs that this could really erupt into war. Russia’s never been afraid of invading neighbours on paper-thin excuses. Georgia was a victim of this, and the same thing could happen here, splitting the country in half.

Given the very distinct two halves of the country, it might not be a totally bad thing. But war is always bad, and that’s something I hope never occurs.