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Two ways EU could retaliate if Russia invades Ukraine

Ukraine: President Biden in crisis talks with European leaders

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Ukraine, although not a member of the EU or NATO, is currently receiving enhanced attention from both organisations. Western powers have swooped down on the Eastern European nation to offer their assistance amid fears Mr Putin is considering another power grab in the region. But he has rejected the narrative, stating his country is conscious of NATO’s eastwards expansion and has asked for assurance that Ukraine won’t join its ranks.

How could the European Union respond to a Russian invasion?

The EU is uniquely endangered by the growing tensions in and around Ukraine, as several member states sit within range of the conflict.

The country borders Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Romania, each fully paid up members under Brussels’ oversight.

And approximately 43 percent of the bloc’s members rely on Russia for their oil supply, putting them at the mercy of state-controlled firms.

That also makes Russia dependent on the EU for money, meaning there are two ways it can hit Mr Putin.

Diversify gas supplies

Over several decades Russia has built a network of pipes stretching from its territory to the west.

Mr Putin controls many of these via state-owned suppliers such as Gazprom, meaning his hand is on Europe’s tap.

But it also means the EU has a chance to deliver a blow to one of Russia’s most vital exports.

The bloc could deconstruct the Russian monopoly by diversifying its oil sources.

Thankfully, there exists a selection of alternative sources from which officials can draw gas.

If Russia chose to cut off supplies, states could turn to Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the US.

US officials have promised to help the bloc weather a gas shortfall by providing a mix of their own cut with more from North African and Middle Eastern nations.

At present, this would include countries like Qatar contributing more, and Joe Biden has arranged discussions with Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani for next week.

At the same time, western nations are discussing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the successor to Russia’s expansive offshore system, the Nord Stream.

Nord Stream 2 would enhance the network by connecting Baltic Sea offshore production to Europe via Germany, providing more income for Russian firms and further embedding Mr Putin’s influence in the EU by extension.

German officials have not greenlit the completed pipeline, with the US advising against it.

Newly minted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz declared the pipeline would come with a “high price to pay”.

If they choose not to activate the Nord Stream 2, it could profoundly impact Russian oil funds, thus hitting Vladimir Putin.

Sanctions

The EU can make a more purposeful strike on Russia’s economy by introducing sanctions.

Mr Putin is no stranger to sanctions, as he is currently on the receiving end of several.

Many of these stem from the invasion of Crimea in 2014, and the EU is among organisations currently pressing on the nation.

Their present sanctions target Russian finances, energy, defence and dual-use goods.

These renew every six months, with another review due on July 31, 2022.

Given the renewed tension in Ukraine, the EU could introduce new sanction plans.

Officials are reportedly considering cutting the country from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT).

SWIFT allows people living in Russia to transfer money via a vast global financial system.

But such a move would have significant consequences, ranging from harm to ordinary Russians and backfiring on the EU’s economy.

Most Russians would find their transactive connection with the west and the rest of the world near broken.

And EU nations would have to stop using the service to pay for Russian oil.

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