The Irish Times view on the EU’s Russia sanctions: holding their nerve

Ireland has joined the most hawkish states, Poland and the Baltics, to propose additional new measures against the Putin regime

EU ambassadors will meet today to work on strengthening a new package of sanctions against Russia. The talks will put flesh on proposals broadly already agreed in principle by leaders, including a cap on the price of oil, but have been given added urgency by Vladimir Putin’s escalatory partial mobilisation, phoney referendums in territories occupied by Russian forces in Ukraine, and his implied threats to resort to nuclear weapons.

Ireland has joined the most hawkish states, Poland and the Baltics, to propose additional new measures. These include further restrictions on Russian banks, curbs on the sale of property to Russian citizens and businesses, cuts in ICT services, components and technologies to Russia, and prohibitions on cooperation on nuclear energy. The new measures would ban lobbying on behalf of Russian entities, along with the provision of a range of services including engineering, architecture and advertising.

A group of countries including the Netherlands is also suggesting that assisting with sanctions evasion and circumvention should be grounds for sanctioning individuals.

Some measures face resistance from member states – nuclear cooperation is important to France while targeting those assisting sanctions evasion is a form of secondary sanctions which many oppose. Hungary is, as usual, particularly problematic and may block the new sanctions. Prime minister Viktor Orban, who will have been emboldened by the victory of Giorgia Meloni in Italy, told his own parliament: “We can safely say that as a result of the sanctions, European people have become poorer while Russia has not fallen to its knees”.

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Yet while it is true that all are inevitably impoverished by sanctions and the necessity of confronting Russian aggression, a failure to do so would be far more costly in the long run. It would only encourage Putin to believe, as he did after his annexation of Crimea, that bullying pays dividends. Russia may not be on its knees yet, but it has already been hobbled.