With Lithuania fearing a possible Russian offensive from Belarus, the European Union was under assault, so to speak, from Russia on Thursday. It thus becomes direly imperative for the entity, headquartered in Brussels, to unite behind new economic sanctions.
The warnings at an EU summit were some of the most direct in recent weeks in the context of the United States of America and its Nato allies seeking to forestall a possible Russian attack on Ukraine. Incidentally, several members of Nato are also member-states of EU.
“We really are facing a series of attacks. I see them all as associated,” was at the core of the Latvian Prime Minister, Krisjanis Karins’ presentation at the summit. Among the contretemps, he listed the weaponisation of West Asia migrants on the Belarus border with the EU, contrived high prices for Russian natural gas, and Russian “misinformation”.
Ukraine is currently the main flashpoint between Russia and the West. The Kremlin claims that Washington has assembled more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders, presumably for an invasion. Moscow maintains that it has the right to move its troops around its own territory as it sees fit, but claims such manoeuvres are “purely defensive”. Such claims have had little or no response from the West in general. The draft statement of the summit states that EU leaders will warn of “massive consequences” if Russia were to invade Ukraine.
A not dissimilar stance has been adopted by America and the United Kingdom. The Kremlin has denied the West’s accusations against it, pre-eminently the plan to attack Ukraine. It claims that it has legitimate security interests in the region; on Wednesday it handed over proposals to the United States, specifically that Nato ought not to expand eastwards or even place new weapons systems near Russia’s borders.
The Prime Minister of Ireland, Micheal Martin, told the meeting that any disputes with Moscow should be resolved by what he calls “peaceful means”. This is of a piece with Ireland’s status of a neutral country outside Nato. But Russia’s Baltic neighbours have at the summit criticised what they described as Moscow’s attempts to blur the line between peace and war.
“We are probably facing the most dangerous situation in the last 30 years. I am talking about not only Ukraine but the eastern flank of Nato,” said the President of Lithuania, Gitanas Nauseda. While both are coordinating their response to the Russians, no real details of any sanctions have emerged.
European officials argue that it is a better deterrent to keep Vladimir Putin in the dark about what measures might be used against him. Russia has apparently become the common target of both the United States and the European Union, across the Atlantic. The geostrategic outlook is remarkably fogbound even as Europe, once again, countenances conflict.