Europe reflects on the future of its Ukraine policy

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Europe reflects on the future of its Ukraine policy

This year has been an unexpectedly important one for the EU as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but next year could be an even bigger and tougher test for the bloc.
The 27-member club has surprised many in recent months with the unity it has shown in working closely with other Western allies to implement major sanctions against Russia. The latest phase of this is expected to start on December 5 in the form of an oil price cap that was agreed with the G7.
In recent days, Europe has also thrown its diplomatic weight behind the 120-day renewal of the Black Sea Grains Initiative negotiated mainly between Turkiye, Russia, the UN and Ukraine. The agreement, initially reached in July, created a protected transit corridor for the shipment to help ease global food shortages by allowing exports to resume from three ports in Ukraine, which is a major producer of grains and oilseeds.
Despite this backdrop of relative success, 2023 could prove to be a very difficult year for Europe if the war in Ukraine continues, and this will perhaps be the key topic of discussion at next month’s summit of 27 prime ministers and presidents. of EU member countries. state
On Thursday, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, laid the groundwork for this upcoming discussion by stating his opinion that “Russia is not ready to withdraw (from Ukraine) and as long as it does not, peace will not be possible.” . It is Russia that has to make peace possible; the aggressor has to withdraw if she wants a sustainable peace”.
Nine months after the invasion began, Russia’s economy has finally entered a recession, according to official data from Moscow released on Wednesday. Its gross domestic product fell 4 percent in the third quarter of the year from a year earlier, according to Rosstat, Russia’s statistics agency. This followed a 4.1 percent year-on-year decline in its second-quarter GDP.

As long as US support for Ukraine remains intact, which is more likely for the foreseeable future following the results of last week’s US midterm elections, internal divisions within the EU could become significantly more easy to handle.

andres hammond

With no apparent end to the conflict in sight, the EU’s resolve is likely to be further tested in the coming weeks, not least as its collective economy heads towards what the European Commission has warned will likely also be a recession, with high inflation. and rising interest rates.
The economic fallout could get even worse. Russian gas supplies to Europe could become more sporadic over the winter and some have speculated that Moscow may also try to impose a limited-time oil embargo on Europe that could send prices soaring further.
As long as US support for Ukraine remains intact, which is more likely for the foreseeable future following the results of last week’s US midterm elections, internal divisions within the EU could become significantly more easy to handle. But the significant differences of opinion among bloc members that undoubtedly exist will affect how far and how quickly they, and by extension the EU itself, will go in 2023 in terms of taking further action against Moscow.
This could be felt most strongly in the sanctions debate. Even as Poland, the Baltics and the Nordic countries of the EU press Western Europe to impose faster and tougher energy sanctions against Moscow, the new measures will be more gradual during the next phase of the war in the absence of new provocations. significant by Moscow.
Such provocations are considered by many to be unlikely, but cannot be ruled out, such is the volatility of the situation. The possibility of it happening by miscalculation, rather than design, was illustrated by the misguided missile that landed in Poland in recent days.
Hungary has been the most outspoken outlier so far in expressing concern over sanctions against Russia. Yet behind the broader European public declarations of support for Ukraine lie major differences of opinion between major Western European states such as Germany and France, and nations on the eastern side of the continent who want an even tougher response.
Schisms within Europe were on display over the summer in a European Council on Foreign Relations poll that found that while Europeans felt strong solidarity with Ukraine and supported sanctions on Russia, they were divided on long-term goals. They were split between a “peace” camp (which at the time represented 35 percent of respondents and was potentially growing) that wants the war to end quickly by any means necessary, and a “justice” camp (22 percent ) who believed that the more pressing goal was to punish Russia for its actions.
In all the largest EU member states, apart from Poland, the field of peace was bigger than the field of justice. The preference for peace was strongest in Italy and Germany, where citizens are increasingly concerned about the cost of sanctions and the threat of military escalation.
There was also a significant group among the respondents who refused to choose between peace or justice, but still strongly supported the EU’s actions in response to the war in Ukraine. Members of this swing group shared the anti-Russian sentiments of the justice camp, but were also concerned about escalation, like those in the peace camp.
In the coming months, more of this third group could move more into the fields of peace or justice, and their views could prove crucial in determining the scope and pace of Europe’s next steps.

Andrew Hammond is an LSE IDEAS Associate at the London School of Economics.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News.

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