EU leaders losing 'propaganda war', says diplomat


In the wake of the Ukraine crisis, European leaders meeting today (20 March) in Brussels will likely limit themselves to adding a few names on the sanctions blacklist and possibly cancelling the June EU-Russia summit, diplomats said, with one slamming the West for losing the 'propaganda war' over Crimea.

Speaking to a small number of journalists, the ambassador of an EU country said EU leaders were keeping their “ammunition” to impose sanctions on Moscow, should Russia take aim at Eastern Ukraine, which in his words conveyed the message that the EU has accepted that “Crimea is gone”.

The diplomat recalled his personal experience to illustrate the fact that with the annexation of Crimea, EU-Russia relations are returning to something similar to the Cold War.

He said that if someone had told him ten years ago that a decade later, the EU would be facing such a situation in Europe, he would not have believed it.

“We look, as the Western world, very weak. The problem is that we, as Western democracies, are facing a completely different system of governance under Putin,” the diplomat said, referring to the return to autocracy which has been growing in Russia since the reelection of Vladimir Putin as President, in May 2012.

The diplomat argued that for EU countries, implementing a visa ban, or an asset freeze, was “a difficult operation” because those countries had “normal constituencies” and could not “summon” their parliaments the way Putin was doing.

The diplomat said that he had wrongly thought that Crimea would become the 84th member of the Russian Federation, in three or four weeks after the 16 March referendum, which the EU said was “illegal”.

On Tuesday, Putin signed a treaty in Moscow, making Crimea part of Russia again, six decades after Nikita Khrushchev gave the peninsula to Ukraine, in 1954.

“He [Putin] made it [an 84th member] this week. We are dealing with a completely different system of governance”, the diplomat exclaimed. The official added that two days ago, he had been watching a talk show on German TV with a representative of a Russian television station, based in Berlin, who was one of the participants.

“It’s incredible how he was arguing. We are short of this machinery. So far we are losing this propaganda war”, the diplomat said.

Stage three of sanctions?

Asked what should be expected from the summit, the diplomat said he didn’t believe that EU leaders would make the decision to move to stage three of the sanctions, as decided at their extraordinary summit, held on 6 March.

The biggest challenge at the summit, the diplomat said, was that the EU needed to remain credible, by delivering on the decisions taken at the previous 6 March summit. Those in fact had appeared more courageous than previously expected.

According to the 6 March decisions, the first stage of sanctions was a suspension of EU-Russia talks on visa liberalisation, and on a new basic bilateral agreement. The second stage took place after the Crimea referendum, when EU foreign ministers agreed on 17 March to impose visa restrictions and asset freezes on 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials for their roles in the events leading to referendum which paved the way for Russia's annexation of Crimea. The list includes three Russian military commanders in Crimea, and districts bordering on Ukraine. [see list on page 12-13 of the EU Official Journal].

Stage three consists of economic sanctions, although little detail is provided in the remarks by Council President Herman Van Rompuy which replaced the usual summit conclusions. The Russian parliament has been preparing legislation to confiscate Western property in the case of more severe Western sanctions.

The diplomat said EU leaders would most certainly discuss “the trigger” for stage three. He expected that leaders would decide to stay on stage two, and perhaps add more names to the list of persons under sanction. The trigger for stage three could be “the destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine”, he said, adding that this was his personal opinion.

“We are in stage two. It seems so, as we accepted that Crimea has gone. I know it, it’s reality”, the diplomat said. He added:

“We cannot expend all our ammunition now, by rushing to economic sanction right now. What kind of leverage would we have if the Russians start operations in Eastern Ukraine”, he asked, rhetorically.

… or adding names to the list

Other diplomats said that officially, the EU would never accept that Crimea is part of Russia. But they also said that the most realistic outcome of the summit would be to have more names added to the list of persons subject to sanctions.

So far two categories are on the list – parliamentarians and military commanders. Two other categories would be the presidential administration and the Russian media. One name that is reportedly been mentioned Dmitry Kiselyov, head of Rossiya Segodnya, the Russian state news agency, who recently said on his Vesti Nedeli (News of the Week) program that Russia could turn the US into radioactive ash.

But diplomats explained that adding names was not an easy exercise, because the EU had to make sure that any case could be defendable in court. According to information obtained by EurActiv, several Ukrainian officials on the EU sanction list, including former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, have hired Western lawyers to claim that their addition to the list was unlawful.

Another likely decision of the summit would be that the EU-Russia summit in June would be cancelled, diplomats said.

The Ukrainian ambassador to the EU, Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, told EurActiv in an exclusive interview, that the sanctions taken so far by the EU were “a mosquito bite” for Putin. He advised that the best thing the EU could do is to prove its unity and firmness vis-à-vis Russia. [Read the full text of the interview here.]

EU leaders will discuss the Ukraine crisis over dinner. A diplomat told EurActiv he expected that this would be a very long night.


Finland's EU and Trade Minister Alexander Stubb said today (20 March) said he did not believe EU leaders would decide on stricter financial sanctions against Russia at their two-day summit this week.

European Union leaders hold critical talks about their next step in how to respond to Russia's seizure of Crimea in Ukraine.

"I don't believe that any so called traditional financial sanctions would be used at this stage. I think those will not be decided today or tomorrow," Stubb said in an interview with broadcaster MTV, quoted by Reuters.

He added said it seemed likely the meeting will discuss adding more Russians to the travel-ban list, as well as banning gun exports.

  • 20-21 March: EU leaders hold regular Spring Summit in Brussels, Ukraineto sign political chapters of EU Association Agreement;
  • 21 March: Truce agreed by Ukrainian and Russian defence ministers on Ukraine forces in Crimea expires;
  • 24-25 March: Nuclear security summit in the Hague. G7 leaders to meet in the fringes of the summit. 


J.Sida's picture

No wonder Putin and his thuggish cronies despise the West with its feeble and hypocritical response to the Ukraine crisis.
I am absolutely against what Putin - I stress Putin and not the Russian people - are doing but he at least puts his money where his mouth is.
Meanwhile the West is paying the price of doing deals with the devil,putting economics before human rights.

old fart's picture

If this is not a wake up cal...nothing is....

can we ask Mr Putin to be our next prime minister....
To have a real man at the helm is assurring...not like the
Eton lads with a voice of angels...and whimps

dpb's picture

The media war is indeed, hotting up. RT gives its own view of the truth. The west gives another. The truth is somewhere in the middle though it has to be said the EU/US partnership was always going to be on a hiding to nothing.
Having established a new government in Kiev, they are now having to see the results of replacing one gang of thugs with another. The last government took extreme actions against any who dared criticise it. Let's see how the new gang behave.
The Nobel peace prize winners have every reason to feel uncomfortable.

Barry Davies's picture

Putin must be wetting himself laughing at the political pygmies who make up the commission posturing as if they have any idea, because it was them that created most of the problem when Ukraine pulled out of the "accession", what a pompous word for annexation, talks.

Had they just accepted it that a nation had seen sense it would not have got to this situation, they then compounded their stupidity by accepting an illegitimate bunch as being the government of Ukraine. Well we will see who wins a sanctions war, but my money is on Russia.

No nation is likely to seriously consider military action against Russia, so they need to actually start to do some real democracy, which by definition means no Ashton or barrosso anywhere near the situation.

an european's picture

About Governance ..hmm Yes !

Here is the difference
Russia has a President which takes firmly decisions fast and clear!

The E.U. has no President !
It consists of incapables head of States Leaders who are pussyfooting about yes or no what where down up and count up !
With no capabilities to take cogen decisions unlike Putin !
The lack of a united defense makes Europe an open door for Russia !So basically Europe is a threatened suicide hazardious.
Putin could in theorie litteraly invade Europe by surprise if he really knows how weak countries are !

We have an unusable Leader's of states Institutions !
We have an unsuable military system!

As Tony Blair said Europe needs a President from 5.000.000 Europeans elected !

It's surely their interests than citizens..however ..

It's a Europe à la carte as à la casse at same time...

Barry Davies's picture

Well just for once you were correct right up till you fell over with the last three paragraphs.

Antoine's picture

When will Ukraine organise elections to legitimise its government?
Will Yatsenyuk be elected by the ukrainian people?

an european 's picture

@ Barry
elected from 500 Millions not 5!

Stephen's picture

I believe in Europe, in the ideals that the EU is grounded upon. For example, fairness and opportunity, justice and freedom. Europe is shooting itself in the foot if in sanctioning an entity, that entity can sue Europe. Sanctioning is a penalty applied in consensus by the national peers that comprise the EU. Why does the same rights and freedoms experienced in the society of the EU have to be extended to an entity it sanctions.
By its very nature, discipline is a corrective measure. One can protest discipline received, although grounds for discipline can be as vague as association with criminal element as defined within the EU society. What gives EU the moral authority and obligation to exact its standards on the outside world is that if it does not -- it may be encroached upon and have to directly defend itself, which could lead to a loss in European freedoms. I toast the EU, and hope to see a timely brazen approach towards the fierce road ahead in Ukraine. We in the western world are in a psychological war with Russia in Ukraine where uncertainty about when and where Russian aggression will arrive next and how that will challenge the ideals we are grounded upon.

myheart2ukraine's picture

The EU are now going round like head-less chickens and serves them right over Ukraine.
Why for once don`t they tel the truth 2 all Ukrainians they really, really don`t care what happens 2 them for if they did they the EU would many, many years ago stepped in and HELPED Ukraine in2 the EU and gave it citizens free visa travel in EU.
Russia now needs 2 annex Eastern Ukraine where most of its compatriots live and the EU needs 2 get a grip on Western Ukraine if it really, really wants it but i think they don`t.
Russia wants its back-yard safe from NATO so unless you guys here want a WWIII with Nukes this time then go say goodbye 2 all your loving families.
President Putin do your duty.

Barry Davies's picture

The eussr is only interested in expanding the empire, the people in the empire don't matter to it one iota, all that upset them was that the elected President of Ukraine told them that he wasn't prepared to allow the unelected political pygmies in the eussr govern his nation. Baroosso unelected, political failure, threw his dolly out of the pram and opened up the current situation. The Crimea had a referendum a democratic vote which is something the political pygmies hate, after all they have a reputation for ignoring them or making them be repeated till the right answer is achieved. Scared by this overtly democratic event possibly making the people who never had a vote on them getting high paid occupations, the political pygmies backed a part of Ukraine over the other part. The eussr has shown that when it comes to international situations it is pointless, now why did they get that nobel prize?

an european's picture

"Eussr is only interested in expanding the empire"
No Barry !
The USSR hasal ready cought up Crimea to expand the empire and surely Putin's idea goes beyond ...
However if you don't like the EUSSR you can live in the USSR and speak all best wishes about the russian mafia benefits !

an european's picture

Everyone has it's own point of vieuw in that Crimea affairs ...
but Jumping for sanctions at fastrack is questionable too ..

Barry Davies's picture

An european I know that you live in a different reality to the rest of us but even you should know that the USSR ceased to exist in 1991, still I suppose that 23 years is to short a time for you to have heard about it.

The League of nations had a good viewpoint on national areas in that it was a part of their policy that everyone had a right to self determination, that is they could decide which are belonged to which nation.

The UN:-

Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples
Adopted by General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960

The General Assembly,

Mindful of the determination proclaimed by the peoples of the world in the Charter of the United Nations to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Conscious of the need for the creation of conditions of stability and well-being and peaceful and friendly relations based on respect for the principles of equal rights and self-determination of all peoples, and of universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion,

Recognizing the passionate yearning for freedom in all dependent peoples and the decisive role of such peoples in the attainment of their independence,

A ware of the increasing conflicts resulting from the denial of or impediments in the way of the freedom of such peoples, which constitute a serious threat to world peace,

Considering the important role of the United Nations in assisting the movement for independence in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories,

Recognizing that the peoples of the world ardently desire the end of colonialism in all its manifestations,

Convinced that the continued existence of colonialism prevents the development of international economic co-operation, impedes the social, cultural and economic development of dependent peoples and militates against the United Nations ideal of universal peace.

The Russians in the crimea given to the Ukraine 60 years ago considered they were a colony of the ukaine and wanted the Right to rejoin Russia a democratic referendum, as opposed by the democracy hating eussr , has taken place and the Crimea has an international right to leave the Ukraine and rejoin Russia no matter how much the erurophiles want to rant and rave about democracy taking place.

evad666's picture

Oh dear here was I thinking this was about the growing democratic deficit in the EU.

evad666's picture

Oh dear here was I thinking this was about the growing democratic deficit in the EU.

evad666's picture

Oh dear here was I thinking this was about the growing democratic deficit in the EU.

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