US sanctions against Europe's energy policy?
The US Senate has followed the lead of the House of Representatives and approved by a large majority new sanctions against Russia. The corresponding legislation will now be presented to US President Donald Trump for signing. The EU Commission has threatened to react with countermeasures if Trump signs the measure into law. Europe's commentators view the developments with concern.
Trump in trouble
La Repubblica sees Trump in a dilemma:
“Should he sign the new sanctions, which virtually the whole of Congress has approved, or not? If he does he will be signing his own demotion. But if he puts in a veto it could backfire. Because the majority that has formed against him is so strong that it could annul his No. This would not only in all likelihood render his veto futile but also be counterproductive for his image. Trump has ten days to decide. But his fate would already appear to be sealed.”
Who's pro-Russian here?
Lietuvos žinios finds the interests that are increasingly coming to light now highly revealing:
“Trump has indicated that he will sign the sanctions. It's clear that this will affect the agreements of the most important EU state, Germany - the country that for years has been talking about Russia's violations of human rights but is still pragmatically pressing ahead with energy and economic projects with the Kremlin. The Nord Stream project undermines the foundations of the joint Western geopolitical architecture and drives a wedge not just between the US and Germany but also between the US and the EU, which defends Germany.”
Old Europe vs Trumpist Europe
Novi list wonders what will happen if the EU Commission implements retaliatory measures against the US and the conflict comes to a head:
“In that case Washington would rely on those European states that have until now vehemently opposed a German-Russian gas alliance - the Eastern European states spearheaded by Poland. ... It is certainly no coincidence that most of these states whose support Washington is hoping to receive are also part of the Three Seas Initiative. ... Croatia will have to decide whether it wants to belong to core Europe or to the new Trumpist Europe on the fringes of the EU. In the past weeks Zagreb has sent out schizophrenic signals. No doubt it's trying to get the best of both worlds.”
Little to do with Ukraine
Economic interests are the main motive behind the sanctions against Moscow, the Tages-Anzeiger comments:
“Although they did much to improve the atmosphere, even the chats between Trump and Putin at the G20 summit couldn't prevent Russia from being hit on its most vulnerable spot: the US sanctions endanger Russian energy projects - the most important sector for the economy and the state. This puts an end to the illusion that everything will be easier with Trump. But there's also Europe. The EU Commission, of all things, is now leaping to the aid of Russia and threatening the US. The Europeans also quite right suspect American energy interests behind the sanctions, interests which in turn pose a threat to their own. To that extent this three-way rancour between Washington, Moscow and Brussels is mainly about economic policy - and has little to do with Ukraine.”
A war that no one can win
The consequences for the energy industry could be dramatic, Il Sole 24 Ore warns:
“It's no secret that the United States wants to start selling its liquid gas to Europe. We're still seeing the first measures but if the new package of American sanctions against Russia is put into practice as planned Europe's energy industry would suffer huge damage. It would be an energy tsunami that could harm and even destroy billion-euro projects. … Europe's companies face a dilemma: should they continue the projects and be hit by the sanctions or withdraw to avoid them? Europe is arming itself and preparing potential countermeasures. A war which no one can win is looming.”
Energy is Europe's weak point
An old conflict within the EU is re-emerging, De Standaard concludes:
“If these [eight potentially affected energy] projects are endangered by the US sanctions, Europe will be dependent on American gas. … This issue opens up old wounds in Europe. The EU member states are, after all, deeply divided over Nord Stream 2. Berlin is a major proponent of the project. … But the Baltic and Central European states don't want to annoy the Americans by saving a project they themselves firmly reject because in their opinion it will increase Europe's dependence on Russian gas. … The division over this issue limits Europe's strike power.”
Why poverty doesn't pose a risk for Putin
Spiegel Online doubts that it would be in America's interests if the sanctions plunged Russia into crisis:
“In the ten years after Putin came to power Russia's GDP increased almost eight-fold. Back then a broad conservative middle class developed for the first time, above all in the big cities. Then in 2011 and 2012 ... this new middle class rebelled in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Once their material survival seemed secure for the first time, millions of Russians had a clear head for new goals. In the opinion polls they increasingly spoke out against political corruption, the poor education system, the lies on television. Poverty isn't a risk for Putin. But growing prosperity and an ever more independent population are.”