Putin betting Europe blinks, top EU diplomat warns

BRUSSELS: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is betting the united EU response to his invasion of Ukraine will fracture as soaring prices hit European voters’ wallets, Brussels’ foreign policy chief warned on Tuesday (Aug 23).

In an interview with AFP, EU high representative Josep Borrell said Putin sees “the weariness of the Europeans and the reluctance of their citizens to bear the consequences of support for Ukraine”.

“We will have to endure, spread the costs within the EU,” Borrell told AFP, warning that keeping the 27 member states together was a task to be carried out “day by day”.

Next week, Borrell will host meetings of EU foreign and defence ministers in Prague, hoping to shore up what has so far been a remarkably united diplomatic front against Russia’s aggression.

The EU member states, most of which are also NATO allies, have agreed a series of sanctions packages targeting Putin’s inner circle and sectors of the economy, including key oil exports.

But now, energy prices and inflation are soaring and several members, including economic powerhouse Germany, face the prospect of deep recessions.

Eastern EU states which border on Russia and have bad memories of Soviet domination want still tougher measures and are pushing for a ban on visas for Russian tourists.

Other capitals are reluctant to take further measures that would also hurt their own economies, fearing that voters’ support for Ukraine might not survive winter power cuts and huge gas bills.