Conflicts & War

Putin won’t cut off Europe’s oil, gas in response to sanctions: Borrell

By Hernan Martin

Doha, Mar 27 (EFE).- The European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, has dismissed the prospect that Russian president Vladimir Putin would cut oil and gas supplies to Europe in retaliation for the tough economic sanctions imposed on Moscow in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia “needs to sell its oil and gas”, Borrell told Efe in an interview at the Doha Forum, where he met Sunday with leaders and political strategists gathered in the Qatari capital to analyze a series of issues of major global concern, including the war in Ukraine, the refugee crisis and the climate crisis.

The Spanish diplomat stressed that Moscow makes “a considerable amount of financial resources it needs” from the sale of fossil fuels, “because the sanctions have blocked the assets that the Russian Central Bank has in American, European and Japanese banks”, although he acknowledged that Moscow still “has many (other assets) in China and in other countries where we cannot act”.

“But we have blocked a very important part of their foreign exchange reserves,” Borrell said.

However, he acknowledged that Putin is an unpredictable person from whom anything can be expected: “I am not inside Putin’s head and I don’t know what he is going to do. I never thought he was going to invade, and more than invade, to destroy Ukraine as he is doing,” he said.

Borrell explained that Europe finds itself in a difficult situation; while it wants to turn off the tap to Russia’s oil and gas imports to isolate it and hit it even harder in response to the war in Ukraine, its economic sanctions have already caused a steep rise in energy prices that are hitting European consumers hard.

EU countries are therefore trying to convince other oil and gas-rich nations to increase their production, which is a key part of Borrell’s trip to the region. Following the Doha Forum on Sunday he will travel to Kuwait.

But the EU’s chief diplomat insisted on the need to maintain and intensify sanctions on Russia, since Putin “is pulverizing” Ukrainian cities. “Since he cannot conquer them, he is bombing them, causing a huge number of civilian casualties,” he said.

Responding to calls in the United States calling for more action against Russia and the debate over where the line would be drawn, Borrell said the allies are in agreement with each other.

“We have not talked about red lines. We know what we have to do and we are doing it,” he said.

“We supply weaponry to Ukraine to defend itself, defensive weaponry, and we put sanctions on Russia to weaken it, especially the economy that revolves around Putin and the people who support him, the famous oligarchs and the leaders of this political system. And that’s what we are doing and that’s what we will continue to do,” he said.

But he also pointed out that it was easier for the United States to ban the import of Russian oil and gas because “they import very little, if not almost nothing,” while European countries “import a lot.”

“Giving up what you don’t have is fine, but when you have it, you have to think twice before making a decision, and for the moment (…) the heads of state and government have not made this decision,” Borrell said.

There have been countries, such as France, that have been in favor of maintaining the ban on Russian gas imports as an option, which is opposed by others, especially Germany.

Borrell said that the EU is working to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict, because “all wars end, and the sooner the better, with a ceasefire first and a peace agreement afterwards.”

“These things are done discreetly, but there are channels in place to achieve a ceasefire as soon as possible and end the suffering of the Ukrainian people”, the diplomat said, while predicting that the peace negotiations “will certainly be long and difficult, but the important thing is to stop this war (…) that should never have started, that has no justification and that is causing enormous suffering”.

“We are almost at four million refugees (…) and 12 million internally displaced persons. At the moment, half of Ukraine’s children (…) have had to flee their homes. Some have gone abroad and others are in other parts of the country. It is a humanitarian tragedy that this war is causing,” he concluded. EFE


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