A day after Congress forged ahead with a mammoth U.S. financial commitment to Ukraine, the European Union’s continued determination to confront President Vladimir Putin of Russia was being tested Wednesday as EU ambassadors again failed to reach an agreement to ban Russian oil.
Talks in Brussels broke off for the day as Hungary, which has resisted adopting an embargo on Russian oil, emerged as the most consequential spoiler to Europe’s continued efforts to present a united front against Moscow as the fighting in Ukraine drags on. Although the EU has displayed striking unity throughout the 11-week war, the Hungary dispute offers an example of how fractures could develop over time, to the benefit of Putin.
EU leaders have already approved five sanctions packages against Russia, but have struggled to finalize the latest, toughest measures — which would heavily punish Russia but also inflict pain on the bloc’s own economies. Avril Haines, the U.S. director of national intelligence, warned Tuesday that Putin was girding for a long conflict, and “probably counting on U.S. and EU resolve to weaken as food shortages, inflation and energy prices get worse.”
Still, Putin’s war so far has drawn Western countries closer together, not farther apart. Finland and Sweden, which are edging closer to joining NATO, signed agreements Wednesday under which Britain pledged to defend either nation if it comes under attack, another sign of how Russia’s invasion has drawn nonaligned countries closer to the alliance.
In other developments:
— The House voted 368-57 in favor of a $39.8 billion aid package for Ukraine late Tuesday, bringing the total U.S. financial commitment to roughly $53 billion over two months. The Senate still needs to vote on the proposal.
— A Ukrainian counteroffensive near Kharkiv appears to have contributed to reduced Russian shelling in the eastern city, even as Moscow’s forces make advances along other parts of the front line.
— A cyberattack that took down satellite communications in Ukraine in the hours before the Feb. 24 invasion was the work of the Russian government, the U.S. and European nations said.
— Ukraine’s economy will shrink 30% this year, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development forecast. The war was also having a severe effect on Russia’s economy, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
By Shashank Bengali and Matina Stevis-Gridneffc.2022 The New York Times Company