EU Considering Tougher Sanctions Against Russia

removingOver the week-end, British PM David Cameron chaired an emergency meeting on the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 and had several discussions with other world leaders, including a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday evening.

According to a statement from PM Cameron’s office, Britain’s Foreign Secretary will attend the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Tuesday where he will be working with other EU colleagues to apply pressure on Russia through further sanctions.

Europe’s three heavyweights, Germany, France, and Great Britain have all agreed that the European Union must “reconsider” its approach to Russia following the downing of flight MH 17 on July 17th as accusations grow louder that pro-Russian separatists shot down the plane using a Russian supplied SA-11 Gadfly surface to air missile system.

The European Union has the ability to impose far reaching economic sanctions on Russia compared to the United States.

Russia supplies approximately 30 percent of the European Union’s gas.

Oil and gas account for 70 percent of Russia’s exports.

The European Union also holds many more business and trade pacts with Russia compared to the United States.

Four days ago, President Obama sanctioned Russia’s largest companies just hours before the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH 17 while the European Union sanctioned new development loans to Russia and wealthy Russians.

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, appeared on Fox News Sunday and urged the West to take a tougher stance towards Russia.

“Before the shoot down, I was an advocate of further reaching sanctions to stop Russia’s aggression and let Putin know the consequences of continuing that form of aggression. The West, including the United States, has to have a far more significant response than we’ve seen to date” Menendez said.

On Meet the Press aired on NBC, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged that Russia is playing a significant role supporting the separatists as they battle the Ukrainian military for greater control over southeastern Ukraine.

“It is clear that Russia supports the separatists, supplies the separatists, encourages the separatists, trains the separatists,” Kerry said.

Secretary Kerry pointed out that the area where Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 17 was downed last week is controlled by pro-Russian separatists and Russian military convoys were observed being transferred to the separatists to assist them gaining control over the region.

“In the last month, we have observed major supplies moving in. Several weeks ago, about a 150-vehicle convoy, including armored personnel carriers, tanks, rocket launchers, artillery, all going in and being transferred to the separatists” Kerry said.

“So there’s a stacking up of evidence here, which Russia needs to help account for. We are not drawing the final conclusion here. But there is a lot that points at the need for Russia to be responsible” Kerry added.

International observers were permitted to visit more of the crash sites in southeastern Ukraine on Sunday but the armed separatists have not granted full access to all of the plane wreckage.

On Monday the U.N. Security Council is planning to schedule a vote on a new resolution that would condemn the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 17 in Ukraine last week, demand access to the plane wreckage site from the armed pro-Russian separatists guarding the area, and ask states in the region to cooperate with an international investigation trying to search for evidence about the cause of the plane crash.

-Johnathan Schweitzer


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