EU foreign ministers: willingness to engage in dialogue and threats of sanctions

Status: 01/24/2022 02:15 a.m

The Ukraine crisis is dominating the deliberations of the EU foreign ministers today. There is still hope for a diplomatic solution with Russia – but the EU states are prepared for failure.

By Stephan Ueberbach, ARD Studio Brussels

After all, we talk to each other. The diplomatic machinery is running at full speed to defuse the Ukraine crisis. But there is no real progress. Russia is still deploying troops on the Ukrainian border and is expecting a written response to its demand for comprehensive security guarantees.

Stephen Ueberbach
ARD studio Brussels

That is the starting point for this meeting. “The issue is nothing less than maintaining the European peace order,” said Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. “It is existential for us.”

Waiver of NATO enlargement ruled out

US chief diplomat Anthony Blinken will be connected to Brussels via video and report on the most recent conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva. In principle, the US and the EU are ready to talk about Russia’s view of things, Blinken said last week. However, only if the West’s sense of threat is also at stake.

“Russia is concerned about our activities, but we are also concerned about what Moscow is doing,” said Blinken. “You can talk about that. But principles such as territorial integrity or the sovereignty of a country, laid down in the United Nations Charter and confirmed by the World Security Council, are non-negotiable for us.”

In other words, the US government cannot rule out the possibility that NATO, as requested by Russia, would not allow Ukraine to join. The Lithuanian foreign minister and outspoken critic of the Kremlin, Gabrielis Landsbergis, recently made it clear that Moscow has no right of veto on the question of a possible NATO expansion. “Russia demands that Ukraine and Georgia, even Finland and Sweden, do not join NATO. NATO’s answer is clear: the door will never be closed.”

Possible sanctions remain secret

Should there actually be a Russian attack on Ukraine, the EU will react very quickly and decisively, they say in Brussels – with sanctions that will affect important industries and leaders. Chancellor Olaf Scholz also said at the weekend that the West would be able to act if the worst came to the worst.

What punitive measures could be involved should remain secret, as part of the deterrence strategy so that the leadership in Moscow cannot prepare for it. A possible exclusion of Russia from the international financial system is still under discussion, as is the end of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

But there is still hope that it does not have to come to that. “The only way out of the crisis is a political way, and this way only leads through dialogue,” stressed Baerbock.

Syria and Mali other topics

The foreign ministers will also discuss the forthcoming Syria conference. For the fifth time, the EU, together with the United Nations, wants to collect money for people in need in the civil war country. However, Syria’s ruler Bashar al-Assad and his regime should not benefit from this.

The situation in West African Mali will also be discussed today. Anger at the country’s military leadership is growing in Brussels and the European capitals because the promised transition to democracy is not going ahead. Sanctions against those in power are now being introduced.

The EU has been involved in peacekeeping and training operations in Mali for years. A possible end to these missions is now being considered more and more loudly. Also because the Malian government has apparently hired the Russian mercenary group Wagner.

Meeting of EU foreign ministers on the Ukraine crisis, among other things: dialogue and the threat of sanctions

Stephan Ueberbach, SWR Brussels, 24.1.2022 00:36 a.m

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