If you invade Ukraine, there will be a heavy price to pay

Conscription soldiers line up at a train station before departing for military service with the Russian Army.

Sergei Malgavko | TASS | beautiful pictures

BRUSSELS – The European Union, concerned about Russia’s “aggressive” stance towards its neighbours, warned Moscow that it would pay a “heavy price” if it invaded Ukraine.

US officials earlier this month said Russia could launch a military strike entered Ukraine in early 2022, with about 175,000 troops. The Kremlin has previously denied the allegations, and the Russian government was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC on Wednesday.

The highly sensitive issue will dominate the negotiations in Brussels on Thursday when the 27 EU leaders meet.

“At this moment, Russia is taking an aggressive posture towards its neighbours. And as the European Union and its G-7 partners have very clearly stated, further aggressive actions against Ukraine will pay a huge price for Russia.” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.

The message was echoed by Germany’s new chancellor, Olaf Scholz, in Berlin.

Addressing the German parliament on Wednesday, Scholz warned of a “heavy price” for Russia if it chose to invade Ukraine. Scholz also spoke of being open to “constructive dialogue” with Russia, according to a report from Politico.

‘Always worried about our big neighbor’

Back in Brussels, EU officials point out that there is not much room for negotiations with Moscow. An EU diplomat, who did not wish to be named due to the sensitive nature of the talks, told CNBC on Wednesday that dialogue with the Kremlin “will only take place if the Ukraine issue is not discussed.”

This suggests that for negotiations between the EU and Russia to take place, a significant de-escalation of tensions on the Ukrainian border is required.

Other officials have gone a step further.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told CNBC that the only way to meet the EU-Russia summit again is if the Kremlin handed Crimea back to Ukraine. The Black Sea peninsula was annexed by Russia in 2014, challenging Western leaders at the time.

“If we are turning to Russia on this issue and forgetting all the things we said in 2014, then we are weakening because we are moving away from what we said,” Kallas told CNBC. .

Kallas admits that her country, a NATO member and one of many European countries bordering Russia, is “always worried about our great neighbour.”

“We clearly see Crimea, we see Donbass [in Ukraine], we also see Georgia, they’ve taken steps to harm different countries, and so we should all be worried,” she said.

On Thursday, European leaders are expected to announce that they are united on the issue and will stand behind Ukraine’s sovereignty.

How might the EU react?

The key question is how far the EU is willing to go. Critics say the EU’s ongoing sanctions against Russia, implemented after the 2014 annexation, have not done enough harm to President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

But speaking to CNBC, Kallas defended the European approach.

“We have intelligence that sanctions are really damaging. Russia has lost 2% of GDP over the years due to sanctions. And of course, Europe needs strategic patience.” , she said, adding that economic penalties take a while to have a hit.

Ultimately, this could be the path the EU decides to take.

“Our response to any further aggression could take the form of a massive replication and expansion of these existing sanctions,” von der Leyen said on Wednesday.

She added that the block could go even further. “We are ready to take additional, unprecedented measures with serious consequences for Russia,” she said.

Many problems with Russia

However, there are other actions by Russia that concern EU leaders and officials. In October, Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita told Reuters Russia’s energy giant Gazprom has not made the traditional annual transfer decision of the previous 30-year gas contract, instead offering a tripling price increase. Russia denied the claims.

Von der Leyen on Wednesday accused Russia of a “blatant attempt to intimidate Moldova’s reformist government” by squeeze their gas supplies at a time of high energy prices. She added that “we must protect our societies and democracies from this kind of cynical geopolitical game.”

Meanwhile, EU leaders also see a link between tensions in Belarus-Poland border with this broader uncertainty.

“The situation on our border with Belarus should be viewed in a broader context, primarily as a deliberate attempt to destabilize the security of our democracies and those of our neighbours.” von der Leyen said Wednesday. If you invade Ukraine, there will be a heavy price to pay

Emma James

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