Biden says Europeans questioning Russia sanctions 'inappropriate, annoying' – Spiegel

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. (Reuters/Yves Herman)
US Vice President Joe Biden has called on European countries to show unity when it comes to sanctions against Russia, labeling the dissenting voices “inappropriate and annoying”, reported ‘Der Spiegel’, quoting the participants of the Brussels meeting.

Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine said that the US vice president’s remarks were made at a special meeting of leaders of the European parliament factions at the EU headquarters in Brussels. Biden called on European countries to ‘stand firm’ against Russia’s alleged threats to the region's unity.

“Putin continues to call for new peace plans as his troops roll through the Ukrainian countryside and he absolutely ignores every agreement that his country has signed in the past... including in Minsk,” Biden said, referring to “little green men”, but failing to provide any exact details of Russia's alleged military presence in the region.

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Critics of the policy of sanctions against Moscow should be aware that they also benefited from the current low price of oil, Biden said. He deemed complaints made by some European states about costly sanctions against Russia “inappropriate and annoying.”

“This is the moment when the US and Europe must stand together, stand firm. Russia cannot be allowed to redraw the map of Europe. That is exactly what they are doing,” the US top official claimed during his one-day trip to Brussels to meet EU leaders on Friday. He went on to claim that “Russia continues to escalate the conflict.”

Biden made his statement despite Moscow’s vocal support of dialogue as the only solution to the Ukrainian crisis. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has stressed that “the most important task” is to establish “sustainable direct dialogue” between the Ukrainian government and the rebel regions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated on multiple occasions that Russia supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Putin has been urging Kiev to exclude any possibility of a blockade of the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions. “Otherwise it is difficult to imagine the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Russia, as you know, supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Putin stressed.

On Friday, Putin met with German and French leaders in Moscow, seeking a way out of the deteriorating crisis in eastern Ukraine.

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EU officials said Thursday that the bloc is planning to blacklist more Russian individuals over Ukraine. However, the EU failed to introduce more economic sanctions due to internal disagreements, particularly surrounding the new Greek government.

European sanctions against Russia have affected several banks, military companies and individuals, prohibiting European entities from giving loans and exporting dual use and military technologies to Russian companies.

In 2014, German exports to Russia already fell by over 16 percent, with a full-year decline expected to stand at approximately 20 percent, equating to a shortfall of €8 billion compared with the previous year.

“We estimate that in Germany 300,000 workers work for Russian exports. As exports have gone down by almost 20 percent...in this respect [we] lost 60 000 jobs. So we expect a further decrease of exports with a negative impact on jobs in Germany,” said Dr. Eckhard Cordes, Chairman of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations.

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Following the introduction of the sanctions, several champions of European industries said that sanctions were not the way out of the crisis.

“The impact of the sanctions is very moderate. Russia’s economic downturn was caused by oil prices. Sanctions worked more against western European countries because of the trade balance,” said Dr. Rainer Seele, Chairman of Germany’s largest oil and gas company, Wintershall.