EU Warns US of Reprisals Over Russia Sanctions

In light of renewed concerns that the US measures would hurt European businesses, EU President Jean-Claude Juncker says “America first cannot mean that Europe’s interests come last”
European Commission President Jean-Claude JunckerEuropean Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker

The European Union has delivered a stern warning to the US over a plan to impose new sanctions on Russia, opening up the prospect of a rift between the two allies over how to deal with Moscow’s foreign interventions.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the bloc would act “within days” if it does not receive reassurances on the potential impact of new sanctions on European interests, CNN reported.

Russia also reacted angrily, saying the sanctions bill passed by the US House of Representatives on Tuesday risked worsening the already poor relations between the two countries.

The bill, drawn up largely in response to Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US election, calls for new measures against Russia, North Korea and Iran. It also limits any effort by the White House to weaken such penalties.

The EU has previously coordinated with the US over sanctions in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. But it fears the latest measures could hit companies that are involved in the financing of a controversial new pipeline, Nord Stream 2, that would carry natural gas from Russia to Germany.

Juncker said the bill could have “unintended unilateral effects” on the EU’s energy security. “This is why the commission concluded today that if our concerns are not taken into account sufficiently, we stand ready to act appropriately within a matter of days,” Juncker said. “America first cannot mean that Europe’s interests come last.”

The bill endorsed on Tuesday demonstrated a number of EU concerns had been taken into account, the commission said, but it did envisage sanctions on any company, including European, that worked on Russian energy export pipelines.

It said this could affect maintenance and upgrade of pipelines in Russia feeding gas to Ukraine or projects crucial to the EU’s energy diversification goals, such as the Baltic Liquefied Natural Gas project.

“The EU is fully committed to the Russia sanctions regime. However, G7 unity on sanctions and close coordination among allies are at the heart of ensuring the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements. This is a core objective that the EU and the US share,” Juncker said.

The European Union, the commission also said, was raising its concerns via “all diplomatic channels”.

Germany, which strongly backs the new pipeline, said it was concerned over the sanctions. It would be “unacceptable for the United States to use possible sanctions as an instrument to serve the interests of US industry policies,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schafer said Wednesday.

If the bill clears a vote in the US Senate, it then heads to the desk of President Donald Trump. It is not clear if that will happen before Congress breaks for summer recess at the end of the month.

Trump has not indicated whether he will sign the bill, which also gives Congress a way to block any easing of new sanctions against Russia, North Korea and Iran, as well as older ones against Russia.

The house action came hours after Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, was interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee about the 2016 campaign and allegations that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian officials to help defeat his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s presidency has been dogged by questions his campaign’s ties with Russia and his pre-election promises to improve relations with Moscow. The Trump administration and the Russian government have consistently denied collusion.


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