The European Union voted Monday to renew economic sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea for an additional six months. Sanctions were first put in place in July 2014 and have been extended ever since. Despite token opposition among some member states, the renewal of sanctions has been relatively routine up to this point. But there are signs that Europe’s united front against Russia is beginning to crack.
Germany, the U.K., Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been the strongest advocates of a hard line on Russia, while Italy, Greece, Hungary and the Czech Republic have been vocal in their desire to rollback or ease sanctions against Russia.
“The situation is seemingly paradoxical in the sense that the countries that are most affected [by the economic impact of lost trade] are at the same time the strongest supporters of the sanctions,” explains Kadri Liik, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. The Baltic states have political and security reasons for maintaining a hard line on Russia. Meanwhile, opponents of sanctions include member states with long-standing political and business ties with Russia.