European Commission chief says ‘nothing is off the table’ when it comes to Russian sanctions

28 January, 03:28 PM
Ursula von der Leyen (Photo:John Thys/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo)

Ursula von der Leyen (Photo:John Thys/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo)

The European Union is actively discussing possible sanctions against Moscow should it invade Ukraine, in particular, removing Russia from the SWIFT international payment system and killing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told U.S. news channel CNN in an interview late on Jan. 27.

“I want to be very clear: Nothing is off the table, everything is on the table,” she told CNN, asked whether Nord Stream 2 would be halted if Russia invaded Ukraine.

“The commission is responsible for designing, shaping and developing the sanctions in the financial field, in the economic field, in the technology field,” von der Leyen said.

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The European Commission president said Russia was highly dependent on trade with the European Union.

“You should not forget that the European Union is the biggest trading partner to Russia,” she said.

“Around about 40% of the trade and goods is done between Russia and the European Union,” von der Leyen said.

“The European Union is also the biggest foreign investor in Russia – 75% of the foreign direct investment is coming from the European Union, and so these figures tell you that we have a strong leverage, and it would be very painful for Russia in the case that they increase this aggression against Ukraine.”

Asked about whether Russia could be cut off from SWIFT if it attacked Ukraine, the European Commission president repeated that nothing was off the table, however no final decision has been taken yet.

The European Central Bank recently warned lenders with significant exposure to Russia to ready themselves for the imposition of international sanctions against the country if Moscow invades Ukraine.

U.S. Senate Democrats on Jan. 12 submitted a bill that would impose sweeping sanctions on top Russian government and military officials, including President Putin, as well as key Russian banks, if Moscow escalates hostilities against Ukraine.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio has also introduced personal sanctions against Russian leadership with the Deterring Authoritarian Hostilities Act of 2022, a bill meant to impose immediate and harsh personal sanctions on Putin and his inner circle if Russian troops further invade Ukraine.

Both U.S. and European officials have expressed concern over the situation. U.S. President Joe Biden in December declared that the White House was working out “the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do.”

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