Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) EU foreign and defence ministers met in Brussels today to discuss additional sanctions against Russia, including a proposed oil embargo.
The bloc and its allies have slapped several rounds of sanctions on Moscow over the war in Ukraine thus far in an attempt to discourage further aggression and end the conflict, Reuters reports. So far, they have included travel bans, asset freezes and the banning of some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments messaging network.
Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said it was “unavoidable” that the assembled ministers should “start talking about the energy sector” and they would “definitely talk about oil” since it was Russia’s biggest revenue earner. With the West’s credibility at stake, he said, “we cannot get tired of imposing sanctions, we cannot get tired of bringing assistance and help to Ukraine.”
US President Joe Biden is scheduled to attend the summit of Western allies in Brussels on Thursday, when NATO, EU and G7 members will discuss their response to the war in Ukraine.
To date, sanctions imposed by the EU on Russia have not changed Moscow’s position on Ukraine. The measures target 685 Russian and Belarusian individuals as well as Russia’s trade and finance sectors
EU split on energy issue
The fifth round of EU sanctions adds more individuals to the blacklist, but EU member states are divided as to whether to target Russian energy imports, something the UK and the US have already done.
According to diplomats, the Baltic EU countries favour imposing an embargo as part of the next package of measures, whereas Germany, which is dependent on Russian energy, is opposed, pointing to the bloc’s already high energy prices. Instead, they note, an embargo could be imposed should Russia resort to the use of chemical weapons or the heavy bombardment of Kiev.
The Kremlin has stressed that an embargo on oil could result in termination of gas deliveries to Europe.
Given that EU member states are dependent on Russian gas to varying degrees, there is little agreement on how they should approach the energy issue. However, Emmanuel Macron, President of France, current holders of the bloc’s rotating presidency, has announced that the EU should have no taboos in terms of sanctions if the situation in Ukraine continues to worsen.