As a new US sanctions bill is scheduled to hit Mr. Trump’s desk, the prospect of increased penalties has rattled Russia and the European Union. Reuters reported this week:
The issue has rattled Russia, which fears that its economy, weakened by 2014 Western sanctions imposed over its role in the Ukraine crisis, will now find it harder to recover and grow. Foreign investors could be scared off. The European Union frets that new U.S. restrictions could pose obstacles to its companies doing business with Russia and threaten the bloc’s energy supply lines
Not surprisingly, Russia has warned of consequences if the bill is signed into law. More interestingly, the EU, too, has issued a number of not so subtly veiled threats. In particular, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has reportedly said the EU was ready to act “within a matter of days” if it felt the new U.S. sanctions undermined the bloc’s energy security.
Retaliation by Russia is one thing, the EU another. Russia has at its disposal a number of potential responses to at least irritate US economic interests, including increasing restrictions on US companies working in Russia and halting enriched uranium shipments to US power plants. However, a retaliatory act by the EU against the US would likely require all members to agree on a unitary response—which is hard to imagine in a bloc of diverse countries with widely different perceptions of both Putin and Trump.