Europe is apparently taking a step back from the sanctions strategy aimed towards Russia over the crisis in eastern Ukraine. Re-engagement with Moscow on global diplomacy and trade to amend the already deteriorated bilateral relations is on the EU's agenda, EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stated, according to the Russian state-run Itar-Tass news agency. As Russia has built ties with ex-Soviet countries and finds a way to deal with its badly-hit economy, the EU member states, mainly France and Germany, are hurting from sanctions imposed on Russia.
"There are significant interests on both sides, which may be conflicting, but could serve as a basis for trade-offs and could imply a give-and-take approach," stated a EU discussion paper seen by Reuters on Wednesday. The paper suggests "a common, long-term aim of free trade" from "Lisbon to Vladivostok," and the necessity of expanding trade with Russia and the members of Eurasian Economic Union as the EU suffers from a stagnant economy and instability.
The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) entered into force on 1 January aims to strengthen Russia's sphere of influence in the face of the European Union and the West. Putin's Russia considers the EEU as a powerful alliance which can rival the European Union under the presidency of Moscow. Russia seeks more cooperation with ex-Soviet countries: Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and the acceding country, Kyrgyzstan, in an effort to strengthen energy, defense and strategic ties in northern Eurasian countries in an effort to revive Russia's economy that was badly hit by US and EU sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine.
Russia's increased militarization of the rebel-held areas in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, and its explicit support of pro-Russian separatists seeking a regional leadership close to Russia has long been condemned by the European Union leaders. The EU imposed a series of tightened economic sanctions on Russian individuals and large companies over the crisis in Ukraine. In an effort to disrupt the Russian economy as a whole through harsh sanctions, some large Russian enterprises close to Russian President Vladimir Putin such as Novatek, Gazprombank and many others have already been targeted by EU sanctions. In addition to travel bans and the freezing of individuals' assets, EU leaders have agreed to impose "Tier 3" hard-hitting sanctions aimed at the Russian gas and oil industry, and imposing an arms embargo. It is evident that the EU's sanctions have so far proven futile in forcing Russia to halt its aggression.