TFI Global recently reported how the Netherlands became the first European nation to scrap all sanctions imposed on Russia. Now, it seems that even EU is coming to terms with reality as it starts rolling back sanctions on Russian defence companies. Yes, EU has, unofficially, given green light to European nations for doing defence trade with Russian companies.
Slovakia is majorly a pro-Russia country, and a poll conducted in September this year clearly depicted that most of the Slovaks wanted Russia to win the war against Ukraine. Another survey showed that 55% of Slovaks had a favourable opinion of Russian President Vladimir Putin, while almost half of them blamed NATO for sparking the war in Eastern Europe.
Slovakian government exported defence items to Russia
The immense popularity that Russia enjoys among the Slovaks is not a new thing and is well documented. However, it turns out the Slovakian government also backed Russia and its invading military in Ukraine despite sanctions imposed by EU. As per a report by Euractiv, Slovakian government officials kept exporting thousands of crucial items required to manufacture defence equipment to Russia, thus violating Western sanctions.
For example, the Ukrainian army has found an Austrian-made engine Rotax 912, typically used in light civilian aircraft, in one of the Iranian drones that were shot down. The Austrian company is denying sending the engines to Russia, but speculations are rife that Slovakia may have exported them in April.
The report also added that Slovakia may also have exported oversized tyres to Russia, required to be fitted in heavy, armoured military vehicles. The Slovakian government in a statement, however, denied helping the Russian military evade European sanctions. It said, “We do not decide whether goods exported to Russia will be used by the Russian military or not.”
Czech government blows the whistle
The Czech government has also highlighted various loopholes existing in the Slovakian export control regime, that may have helped the Russian army. According to a source from the Czech customs office, the problem is that Slovak authorities do not investigate the exported goods. “We issue hundreds of licences every year and review every individual export of dual-use goods. In Slovakia, reviewed cases are in units,” the source said.
EU’s ‘I-don’t-care’ attitude
Now, Slovakia is an EU-member nation. One could have expected EU to take a tough stand on Slovakia’s under-the-table defence trade with Russia. However, the EU took everyone by surprise when it tried to downplay the gravity of the situation. EU in a statement said that it lacked the competency to monitor individual cases of EU nations, and that it was not responsible for enforcing the ban on Russian companies.
A European Commission spokesman added, “Member States are responsible for the implementation of EU sanctions. The European Commission is not competent to assess individual cases of sanctions application.”
Is EU rolling back sanctions on Russian defence companies?
Now, that is a green signal for every European country of the EU to reopen its closed trade channels with Russia. By avoiding taking a tough stand on Slovakia and forcing it to follow EU sanctions, EU has set a precedent that may favour defence trade between EU nations and Russia.
That’s startling, because, don’t forget, the war in Ukraine is still going on. The Russian military is close to exhausting its available military supplies. Any substantial help from a European country can really make or break the fortunes of the invading Russian forces. But it seems like EU’s priority, for now, is to control the rising anti-EU sentiments across Europe, especially in the Balkans.
EU is realizing that if it went overboard in pressing the nations to follow its Russia policy, it may backfire. This can also trigger anti-EU uprisings across Europe. The Czech Republic has already witnessed such anti-NATO and anti-EU demonstrations held by anti-Ukraine elements. So, EU is slowly and sneakily rolling back its sanctions on Russia, just to keep the entire EU united and tame the ire of people wanting to soon see the dawn of peace in Europe.