Europe’s ‘almost-consensus’ moment on Russia and Ukraine speaks volumes. For shame

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL February 25, 2022

Early on Friday, February 25, the day after Russia invaded Ukraine,  Donald Tusk, a former prime minister of Poland and a former president of the European Council, tweeted as follows:

“In this war everything is real: Putin’s madness and cruelty, Ukrainian victims, bombs falling on Kyiv. Only your sanctions are pretended. Those EU government’s, (sic) which blocked tough decisions (i.a. Germany, Hungary, Italy) have disgraced themselves.”

Mr Tusk’s observations are worth noting. He currently leads the European People’s Party, which is said to be Europe’s largest transnational grouping. Last July, he returned to Polish politics. But more to the point, Mr Tusk knows the way Europe works, or rather, doesn’t work. As president of the European Council, which consists of the heads of state or government of the European Union’s (EU) member states, Mr Tusk once helped define the EU’s political direction and priorities.

In other words, Mr Tusk knows of what he speaks when he calls out the pretend sanctions imposed on Vladimir Putin. And he has clearly held his finger up and feels the way the wind is blowing when Italy, one of the EU’s six founding members of the EU, backed a move for some sanctions against Russia to be held for a later stage. The — keeping “something up their sleeves” initiative was pushed overnight by Italy, Cyprus, Hungary and Germany.

The “incrementalist” approach to penalising Russia, as some diplomats put it, means Russia hasn’t been cut off from the international bank messaging system known as Swift.

The idea of targeting Vladimir Putin and/or his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has also been put on the backburner although Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte indicated there was “almost consensus” on their being blacklisted.

Europe’s “almost-consensus” moment speaks volumes. For shame.