EU Ready to Hit Russia With ‘Deep Impact’ Sanctions If It Invades Ukraine: French Finance Minister

The European Union is ready to impose punishing sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Bloomberg Television, adding that hopes remain for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.

The sanctions that the EU is poised to launch would have “a deep impact on Russia and the Russian economy and on the Russian interest,” Le Maire said, while calling the current moment in the crisis a “time for deescalation” and diplomacy.

Le Maire declined to specify what sanctions are ready to go as that would render them “inefficient” as a deterrent, while insisting they would be triggered when “it’s time.”

“One point must be very clear—if there is any attack from Russia to Ukraine, we have a set of sanctions that are still available and that would hit the Russian people, the Russian state, and Russian economic interests,” he said.

Asked about the prospect that French citizens and those of other EU countries could see energy prices rise if the sanctions include Russian energy, Le Maire suggested it’s a price they’d be willing to pay to stand up for Ukrainian sovereignty.

“We are aware of the consequences for the EU economy,” he said, adding, “But the political principle is more important: We refuse any kind of attack against Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

Le Maire hailed as a “major breakthrough” the prospect of a summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which Biden has committed to, provided that Russia doesn’t invade Ukraine.

But on Monday hopes cooled for such a high-level meeting, which could offer a possible path out of Europe’s biggest military crisis in decades, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling reporters that a phone call or meeting between the two leaders could be set up at any time, but so far there there were no concrete plans for a summit.

The White House said in a statement that Biden had accepted the meeting “in principle” but only “if an invasion hasn’t happened.”

“We are always ready for diplomacy,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “We are also ready to impose swift and severe consequences, should Russia instead choose war.”

Russia has repeatedly denied plans to invade, declarations that have been challenged by Western leaders, who over the weekend said there’s mounting evidence Moscow intends to move forward with an invasion.

Russia drills
The armed forces of Russia and Belarus attend joint exercises at the Gozhsky firing range in the Grodno region, Belarus, on Feb. 12, 2022. (Leonid Shcheglov/Belta/AFP via Getty Images)

Echoing Le Maire’s remarks on hopes for a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters on Monday he still saw room for diplomacy, but would convene an extraordinary EU meeting to agree sanctions “when the moment comes.”

Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, on Saturday called for sanctions to be imposed before an actual attack occurs in order to deter a potential Russian aggression.

“Develop an effective package of preventive sanctions to deter aggression. Guarantee Ukraine’s energy security, ensure its integration into the EU energy market when Nord Stream 2 is used as a weapon,” he said in his speech at the 58th Munich Security Conference.

He told CNN that he disagreed with the idea that sanctions should only be triggered after an invasion.

“We don’t need your sanctions after the bombardment will happen and after our country will be fired at or after we will have no borders, or after we will have no economy … Why would we need those sanctions then?” he said.

Lithuania’s foreign minister echoed that sentiment, saying the EU “should look for more than just an invasion” as the trigger for sanctions because Ukraine is already suffering economic and other impacts from the Russian military buildup on its borders.

Borrell said he holds out hopes for a Biden–Putin meeting, saying that, “summit meetings, at the level of leaders, at the level of ministers, whatever format, whatever way of talking and sitting at the table and trying to avoid a war, are badly needed.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times