European Council President Donald Tusk said Thursday he thinks the European Union will extend sanctions against Russia, but that it will be harder in the future to preserve the Western world’s unity on Moscow when Donald Trump is U.S. president.
Tusk, Poland’s former prime minister, said France, Germany and the United States have supported him in maintaining a cohesive response to Russia’s military assertiveness and that he expects another extension of economic and political sanctions on Moscow to be approved in January, for the usual 6-month period.
“All signs indicate that at least once again we will manage to jointly extend the sanctions on Russia,” Tusk told Polish station TVN24 as he marked two years leading the EU’s policy-making body. “No one can say how it will be in six months’ time.”
Tusk said it may be harder to preserve the West’s unity around Russia after Trump takes office Jan. 20. Trump expressed more concern about Britain’s exit from the EU than about Russia and Ukraine when they spoke recently, he said.
“I believe that after the (U.S.) elections and Donald Trump’s victory it will be harder to build such unequivocal, uniform policy of the Western world toward Russia,” Tusk said.
The EU imposed a series of rolling economic sanctions against Russia in July 2014 after it annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. They include canceling of top-level meetings, travel bans and asset freezes on people linked to the annexation or thought to be interfering with Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Some of the measures are due to be renewed in January, but EU officials have been waiting to see whether Trump plans to reboot relations with Russia. With the EU already divided over how to handle Moscow, any sign that U.S.-Russia relations might improve could undermine the sanctions.
The Russian economy shrank by 3.7 percent in 2015, and the recession has continued this year under the combined blow of low oil prices and Western sanctions.