After the events in Ukraine and Crimea in 2014, it was not at all self-evident that Europe would also impose sanctions on Russia. According to the then vice-president of the United States Joe Biden, the US government at the time was struggling to convince the European heads of government of the usefulness of sanctions against Russia.
In the following excerpt from a panel discussion for the Council on Foreign Relations Joe Biden says the following about the sanctions that were meant to put Putin under pressure.
“We spent so much time—as you know, because I came, Mike, to you for advice—we spent so much time on the phone making sure that everyone from, at the time, Hollande to Renzi wouldn’t walk away. They wanted no part of these sanctions on Russia. It had an impact on them. It was basically you’ve got to do this. And thank God Merkel was strong enough at the time to reluctantly—she didn’t like it either—to stand with us”.
With regard to developments in Ukraine since the regime change in 2014, he said the following:
“If, in fact, you do not continue to show progress in terms of corruption, we are not going to be able to hold the rest of Europe on these sanctions, and Russia is not going to roll across the inner line here and take over the rest of the country with their tanks. What they’re going to do is they’re going to take your economy down, you’re going to be absolutely buried, and you’re going to be done. And that’s when it all goes to hell.”
Sanctions against Russia
In 2014, Europe supported the first package of US sanctions against Russia and continued to extend these sanctions. But now the former vice-president of the United States reveals that there has never been much support from the European heads of government for these sanctions.
This also explains why the US introduced new sanctions against Russia, but why Europe didn’t follow. It is also noteworthy that the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to German has not been delayed or obstructed.
In the meantime, many European companies have suffered economic damage from the Kremlin’s response, because Russia decided to stop importing agricultural products from the European Union. According to estimates by the Austrian Institute of Economic Research, companies in the European Union have lost € 30 billion in sales due to sanction policy against Russia.
According to this research agency, exports to Russia have decreased by 15.7% every year since 2014, a decrease that can largely (40%) be attributed to the sanctions. While the EU exported € 120 billion worth of goods and services to Russia in 2013, the trade figure was reduced to just € 72 billion by 2016.
Between 2009 and 2012, European exports to Russia increased by 23.5% year-on-year and in 2013 Russia was the fourth largest trading partner of the European Union, next to the United States, Switzerland and China.