CATF Reports Oct. 21, 2016, 9:22am

A number of strategically important and urgent issues featured on the policy agendas of Europe’s leaders as they gathered in Brussels yesterday. While diplomats were pressed to address the spread of populism and a migration crisis across the continent, not to mention Britain’s exit from the EU, there was arguably no more important challenge than the need to craft an effective and sensible policy toward Russian provocations in Syria and Ukraine. Such a policy, European leaders confirmed, could include new, targeted sanctions against Russia over atrocities committed in Aleppo, a move the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister told the US would elicit a “painful” response.

The leaders of the EU’s most powerful countries, France, Germany, and the departing UK, have struggled to combat Putin’s violent defense of the Syrian regime since Russia intervened in the war over a year ago. Accusations of Russian war crimes in Aleppo have fallen on deaf ears in Moscow and attempts to implement ceasefires, or a “humanitarian pause”, have been short-lived and absent of any indications of Russian cooperation. The frustration of the EU’s leaders caused by an emboldened Russian military intervention, despite accusations of causing thousands of civilian deaths, is clear to see. A day after Merkel, Hollande, and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko met with Putin in Berlin to discuss the Ukrainian and Syrian conflicts, a new EU draft summit communique was released calling for the EU to consider “all options, including further restrictive measures targeting individuals and entities supporting the regime, should the current atrocities continue.”

While the threat of targeted sanctions has the potential to intensify EU efforts to combat Russia’s military involvement in Syria, all 28 EU member states would have to agree to sanctions before they are implemented. Already, Spain, Greece, Austria, and Cyprus have led objections to measures against Russia, while others, including Italy, have called for possibly drawing back sanctions placed following Russian incursions in Ukraine. Despite the announcement of a Russian-imposed “humanitarian pause” in Aleppo, the emergence of Russian warships off the coast of Norway likely headed for Syria, threats of forceful retaliation against sanctions from Moscow, and a strategically divided union add challenges to EU moves towards increased sanctions against Russia.

From the Financial Times:

“Germany, France and Britain pressed on Thursday for new sanctions against Moscow over the bombardment of Aleppo, highlighting the deteriorating relations between Russia and the west.

A day after “difficult” talks in Berlin with Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, said Russian support for the Syrian regime’s bombing of Aleppo was “completely inhuman”.

Officials made last-minute changes to the draft communiqué from Thursday’s EU summit, which could pave the way for new penalties to be imposed against Moscow if the violence in the besieged northern Syrian city continued."

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