Final day of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe plenary

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will conclude today its plenary session. Discussions focused on Russian opposition

PACE plenary

Photo: Candice Imbert/ Council of Europe

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will conclude today its plenary session.

Discussions focused on Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s incarceration upon returning to Moscow on January 17. Navalny’s arrest has deteriorated already strained European-Russian tensions, with the European Parliament calling for enhanced sanctions. PACE will also likely issue a stern resolution demanding Navalny’s unconditional release.

Despite a hardening stance, the assembly is unlikely to reach a consensus regarding sanctions that could induce the Kremlin to capitulate. Terminating work on the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline could be a trump card, but such a step is unlikely. Germany, which refused to abandon the pipeline following the Russian annexation of Crimea and US sanctions, is unlikely to change course over Navalny. The bloc could adopt new asset freezes and travel bans next month, but such action would likely fail to break Moscow’s determination.

If, however, the intensity of recent protests throughout Russia increases and even more repressive crackdowns follow, it could represent a tipping point, forcing relatively accommodating European heavyweights France and Germany to reconsider their positions. Therefore, expect limited punitive measures in the immediate interim, with developments in the short- to medium-term likely to dictate the trajectory.

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