New Sanctions vs the Wagner Group
The EU is set to approve new sanctions against the Wagner Group. The Wagner Group, known to have close affiliation with the Russian leadership, is involved in mercenary activities in various countries, mostly Libya, the Sahel and Ukraine. According to reports, the group supports Russia’s military interests and is thought to act as Russia’s informal army. In a bid to curtail their activities, which often serve as a destabilising force in the regions involved, the EU will be introducing assets freeze and travel bans. The list includes eight individuals and four entities, and is expected to be officially approved in today’s Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels.
The group has been involved in Libya in support of the Eastern forces led by Khalifa Haftar. Bringing order to Libya is paramount for peace and stability in the Mediterranean and Libya should not be used for proxy wars by others.
Libya is set to go to the polls on 24th December, however, doubts persist as to whether this will be held as scheduled,while others fear that fighting could erupt again if the results are not accepted. Considering the number of militias roaming the streets, coupled with thousands of mercenaries, active with one side or the other, the situation could well prove to be explosive.
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Will Russia invade Ukraine?
The issue is still at the back of leaders’ mind and will most likely feature in the leaders’ discussions as they meet in Brussels this week. US President Joe Biden expressed concerns on the issue and a telephone call with Ukraine’s President, yet we can safely assume that the West will not go to war with Russia over Ukraine. Such a scenario could well be MAD – a term coined during the Cold War which still applies today, i.e. Mutually Assisted Destruction.
The main issue is Russia’s military access to warm waters for its fleet. Should Ukraine join NATO, its forces in Crimea would be surrounded by NATO forces and Russia is dead set not to accept such a scenario from materialising. Furthermore, while Russia has annexed Crimea, deemed illegal by the international community, should Crimea return to Ukraine, Russia would end up losing access completely in the future.
Annexing a whole territory of an independent country would be another story and would send shockwaves across the globe. Such a possibility would also affect the balance of power and would most likely lead to a global arms race. Russia seems to be playing a posturing game, or at least that is what we hope, in a bid to warn the West, not to expand into Ukraine.
Franco-German Alliance – What does the future hold for the EU?
A new government in Germany has now been appointed, with the S&D’s Olaf Scholz as Chancellor. Immediately following his appointment, the German Chancellor held a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron while the new German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also flew to Paris, Brussels and Warsaw, signalling the importance of these capitals to German Foreign Policy.
Only time will tell how the Franco-German alliance will pan out, but it already seems that the new German Chancellor had departed from his predecessor’s policy vis-à-vis the Nord Stream Pipeline project. Will France be getting stronger in the EU under a confident Macron and in view of German changes? Or will Germany assert its position as the voice of reason?
With the French Presidency of the Council of the EU around the corner, some Member States are already uneasy about France’s new posturing particularly on foreign affairs, where unanimity is required. Many small Member States might feel obliged to follow the French line, in the absence of any competing power within the EU. French elections are also fast approaching, and France would like Member States to toe the line and not to rock the boat.