Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ukraine has the largest standing army in Europe. (Illustration by Suneesh K.)
Moscow would have its access to financial markets and high-tech goods limited under Western sanctions being prepared in case Russia attacks Ukraine, one of the European Union’s top officials said on February 19.
The comments from Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the EU’s executive commission, came as tensions over Russia’s intentions toward Ukraine intensified. United States President Joe Biden on February 18 said he was convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade the neighbouring country.
The Kremlin’s dangerous thinking, which comes straight out of a dark past, may cost Russia a prosperous future, von der Leyen said during the annual Munich Security Conference on February 19, where US Vice President Kamala Harris also spoke.
Von der Leyen said the EUs executive arm has developed a robust and comprehensive package of financial sanctions with the US, the UK and Canada.
“In case that Russia strikes, we will limit the access to financial markets for the Russian economy and (impose) export controls that will stop the possibility for Russia to modernize and diversify its economy,” she added. “And we have a lot of high-tech goods where we have a global dominance, and that are absolutely necessary for Russia and cannot be replaced easily.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that during a meeting on February 15 with Putin he “made clear that any further violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine will have high costs for Russia, politically, economically and geo-strategically.”
“And at the same time, I stressed that diplomacy wont fail because of us,” Scholz added. “As much diplomacy as possible without being nave, that is our aspiration, and we are using all channels of communication for that.”
Western leaders so far have not specified what precise Russian action would trigger sanctions. A French official who wasn’t authorized to be publicly named and spoke on condition of anonymity after Biden conferred with several counterparts on February 18, said they were talking about an invasion of territory currently under the control of the government in Kyiv.
“It is in the event of an invasion of this territory that … the massive sanctions that we are talking about would be triggered,” the official said.
Parts of eastern Ukraine are under the control of pro-Russia separatists who have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014, the year Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.