Today the European Council meets to discuss EU policy towards Russia and Ukraine’s President Poroshenko will meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. These discussions must see the West remain resolute in the face of Russian aggression as President Putin launches his country’s biggest military offensive since the Cold War.
Today, as European politicians meet in Brussels to discuss how to respond to President Putin’s foreign policy, Russia has launched its largest surface deployment since the Cold War as the Kremlin seeks to end the war in Syria with an attack on Aleppo in the coming weeks. The timing of the assault will coincide with the U.S. presidential election, and Russia has already demonstrated its willingness to interfere in this democratic process.
Russian and Western interests are now diametrically opposed in a number of ways. Russia seeks to prop up the Assad regime without regard for civilian life, as the deliberate bombings of Syrian hospitals and a UN aid convoy demonstrates. This is driving the migrant crisis that threatens European unity. Attempts to aid political forces with objectives that may destabilise European countries have been commonplace. Russia has deployed propaganda and financial resources for left- and right-wing parties across Europe.
Dr Andrew Foxall, Director of the Russia Studies Centre at The Henry Jackson Society, said: “Today’s discussions come at a time of strained relations between Russia and the West, and European leaders should weigh this reality in any action they take.
“Although sanctions are not alone in guiding the EU’s policy toward Russia, they remain key. And they should be extended, not only because Russia continues to impede the implementation of the Minsk agreement but also because of the Kremlin’s actions in Syria. Individuals responsible for Russia’s operations in Syria should be included in this extended sanctions regime. So too should the EU work with the United States and other allies to collect evidence that could late be used in war crimes trials.”