July 24, 2017
EU briefing note seen by the Financial Times talks of EU taking retaliatory action against US if the US uses the sanctions to obstruct EU-Russia energy deals, and sets out plans to shield European companies involved in such deals.
In my lengthy discussion of the new anti-Russian sanctions package, which the US House of Representatives is expected to vote, I said that the EU would be furious at being presented by the US with a sanctions fait accompli introduced without any prior consultation, and which the EU would undoubtedly see as at least in part an attempt by certain groups in the US to force the EU to buy expensive US liquified natural gas in preference to cheap Russian pipeline gas.
I also said that since it is now almost certainly too late to prevent this new sanctions package being brought into law, the EU would probably respond by threatening retaliation in the event that the US sought to fine European companies which participate in Russian pipeline projects, and would seek to negotiate with the Trump administration a deal to shield European companies which participate in such projects from being ordered by the US to pay such fines.
According to an article which has appeared in the Financial Times that is exactly the approach the EU is taking
Brussels is preparing to retaliate against the US if Washington pushes ahead with far-reaching new sanctions on Russia that hit European companies. Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, has called for an urgent review of how Brussels should respond if Europe’s energy companies or other businesses are targeted by sanctions under discussion in the US Congress.
According to a note prepared for a commission meeting, and seen by the Financial Times, Brussels “should stand ready to act within days” if the US measures were “adopted without EU concerns being taken into account”……..
The note says that Brussels’ “primary focus” should be on seeking “a public or written reassurance” from the Trump administration that it will not apply the new sanctions in a way that targets EU interests. Other options set out in the EU commission note include using European law to prevent the US measures from being “recognised or enforceable” in Europe, and preparing “WTO-compliant retaliatory measures”.
This episode highlights the folly and arrogance of the political class in the US.
Though US-EU unity on Russian sanctions and the Ukraine crisis has been showing increasing signs of fraying, with a majority of EU governments privately regretting that they let themselves be strong armed by the US and the Germans back in July 2014 into agreeing to the sanctions at all, Angela Merkel’s personal commitment to the sanctions has meant that up to now this unity has just held.
Now because of an internal political quarrel in the US concocted over a totally fictitious scandal the US Congress is about to take a step which is forcing Angela Merkel and the EU bureaucracy to take a stand against the US on the sanctions question alongside Russia.
In an exasperated tweet yesterday – one clearly addressed to Congress Republicans – President Trump said that only the Democrats and the Russians could be happy with the Russiagate developments:
As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!
Whether the Democrats are laughing I rather doubt. Their behaviour throughout the scandal on the contrary speaks of paranoia and hysteria taken to the point of derangement.
However if the Russians are not laughing now they probably soon will be.