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EU falters in bid to adopt Russian oil embargo, showing risks of prolonged war


Representative image (Source: Reuters)

By Mark Landler and Dan Bilefsky


The West united against Russia’s war on Ukraine more swiftly and solidly than almost anyone expected. But as the war settles into a grinding conflict that could drag on for months, even years, concerns are growing that the rising economic toll could erode resolve and solidarity in Europe and the United States.


So far, the fissures are only fragmentary: Hungary has refused to sign on to an embargo of Russian oil, thwarting the European Union’s ambitious effort to impose a continentwide ban. There is restiveness in some European capitals with the Biden administration’s goal of militarily weakening Russian President Vladimir Putin. And a beleaguered President Joe Biden has blamed spiraling food and gas prices on a “Putin price hike.”


Alongside those tensions, however, Russian aggression is also fomenting European unity. Finland and Sweden are edging closer to joining NATO, and Britain and Sweden have signed a mutual-security declaration, vowing to come to each other’s aid if they face a military threat. In Washington, the House voted 368-57 in favor of a nearly $40 billion aid package for Ukraine.


Putin, some experts say, is calculating that the West will tire before Russia does of a long struggle for Ukraine’s contested eastern Donbas region, especially if the price for Western support is turbocharged inflation rates, energy disruptions, depleted public finances and fatigued populations. Putin faces his own domestic pressures, which were evident in the calibrated tone he struck during a speech in Moscow’s Red Square on Monday during which he refrained from calling for a mass mobilization or threatening to escalate the conflict.


Analysts pointed out that a prolonged war would strain the resources of an already overstretched Russian military. Given that, some argue that the West should press its advantage by tightening the economic chokehold on Moscow.


“I worry about Western fatigue,” said Michael A. McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, “which is why the leaders of the free world should do more now to hasten the end of the war.”


In other developments:


— Biden traveled Wednesday to a farm in Illinois, where he was expected to discuss how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is raising food prices and how U.S. farmers can help alleviate global food shortages.


— A day after Ukraine’s counteroffensive unseated Russian forces from a cluster of towns northeast of the city of Kharkiv, the region’s governor said Wednesday that the Ukrainian efforts had driven Moscow’s forces “even further” from the city.


— The Kremlin signaled Wednesday that it could annex the strategically important southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, as the occupying authorities said they would prepare a formal request to Putin to absorb their region into Russia.


— Russia’s war has caused colossal losses in employment and income for Ukrainians, destroying nearly a third of all jobs in the country, the United Nations’ labor organization said Wednesday.

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