The Rome-Berlin Axis That Designed EU Sanctions against Russia

According to a reconstruction by the Financial Times, two persons were key in Europe to force through the decision to freeze the Bank of Russia’s central bank reserves on the third day of the military intervention in Ukraine: Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Ursula von der Leyen’s chief of staff, Björn Seibert. Whereas the former was able to convince a recalcitrant US government to take a decision that the Federal Reserve had exposed as harmful to the dollar, the latter had begun working on a package of sanctions in January, well before the Russian military intervention in Ukraine.

In Europe, it was Draghi, according to the Financial Times, “who pushed the idea of sanctioning the central bank at the emergency EU summit on the night of the invasion. Italy, a big importer of Russian gas, had often been hesitant in the past about sanctions. But the Italian leader argued that Russia’s stockpile of reserves could be used to cushion the blow of other sanctions, according to one EU official. ‘To counter that … you need to freeze the assets,’ the official says.” Two days later, Ursula von der Leyen called Mario Draghi and asked him to work his “magic” on US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. By the end of the day, he had convinced her.

Draghi’s so-called “magic” is less esoteric that one might think: it is the power of the City of London and of Wall Street, which former Goldman Sachs executive Draghi represents, and for which torpedoing the credibility of the US dollar as world reserve currency is no problem, as long as it can advance the cause of the British Empire.

As for Seibert, he has a perfect British pedigree as an associate fellow of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies, the oldest British think-tank, and has also worked as an analyst at the Foreign and Defense Policy Studies Program of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. According to the New York Times Brussels correspondent Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Seibert was “for so much of his professional life immersed in the American defense ecosystem.” And he “turned out to be — and I’m quoting senior sources that spoke to me about him — ‘the machine’, the brains behind the European Union sanctions, and the point person coordinated with the United States, Canada and Britain. And it seems like he was uniquely qualified for this moment.”

Stevis-Gridneff notes further that after “carefully, secretly, meticulously” putting together a massive list of sanctions, Seibert then, “instead of meeting with all E.U. countries’ representatives at the same time, he invited them into talks with different smaller group configurations. And he used the dynamics between these smaller groups of countries and their officials to push forward consensus on his measures, sometimes using the opinions of one country to make the other country feel like they had come up with the idea for a sanction, for example. So he sort of played them a bit.”

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