Bloc looks more like a military organization under US pressure, Spiegel reports
EU leaders took concerted action “economic war” against Russia in part because member states could be harmed by secondary US sanctions, German magazine Spiegel said in its latest edition. Under the guise of punishing Moscow for attacking Ukraine, the European Commission has grabbed additional power, she said.
The detailed account of the EU sanctions campaign did not mince words in describing the effort as a form of hostilities against Moscow. Spiegel even called the effort’s chief coordinator, Bjoern Seibert, the commander-in-chief of the “economic warriors” though he rejects the label, saying it’s “not how the EU works”, according to the June issue of the magazine.
Seibert is the chief of staff to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. He has been the EU’s right-hand man for Russia sanctions since November, when CIA Director William Burns paid an unexpected visit to Brussels after visiting Moscow.
Brussels at the time “fears that the United States will unilaterally decide on sanctions” due to potential escalation in Ukraine, Spiegel said. European companies could be subjected to it without Brussels having a say, and to avoid this, EU officials have agreed to prepare a unified response.
According to the magazine, Seibert and his men took advice from US officials such as Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh. The Americans brought their experience of sanctions against Iran, Russia and the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. EU actions on Ukraine could prepare the bloc for a future conflict with China, Spiegel said.
“If the economic warriors in Washington and Brussels are successful, the war in Ukraine has created the model for a sort of economic NATO designed to deter aggressive autocrats,” It said.
As the former economic community reconstitutes itself into a “security alliance” Brussels has enacted dozens of laws, hired more staff and otherwise gained power. “The Commission has cleverly used the situation to obtain additional powers”, an EU diplomat in Brussels told the magazine.
In January and February, Seibert led a diplomatic campaign to rally national governments to the “economic war” to plan. He made sure there were enough Eastern European officials at the secret group chats to give more momentum to his message, according to the report.
After hostilities began in Ukraine in late February, Canada put the brakes on Europe, according to Spiegel. The EU did not want to impose brutal cuts in Russian energy, but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suddenly announced an oil embargo, followed by US President Joe Biden. Soon von der Leyen said the EU should follow the North Americans, but nations dependent on Russian oil resisted, delaying the EU’s sixth sanctions package for weeks.
EU bureaucrats consider their efforts a major success, although some of the damage they have caused will take months and years to materialize, they say. Spiegel thinks it was a mixed bag, as Moscow has successfully circumvented some of the restrictions and is raking in record profits selling oil to India, which resells it to Western countries. The confrontation has become a “trench warfare” at this point, the magazine said.