‘We have other priorities’: German FM urges US to end sanctions policy toward Russia
“A discussion… in the US [about the policy toward Russia and particularly about the anti-Russian sanctions] should not be held in such a way that would lead to further confrontation with Russia,” the minister said, talking to RT during the 10th Russian-German Resource Forum in St. Petersburg. He went on to say that Germany has fundamentally different interests in relations with Russia and is focused on developing a dialogue with Moscow.
“Despite some political differences, particularly those that concern… Crimea and the situation in the Eastern Ukraine, both sides [Russia and Germany] have genuine interest in developing cooperation in the fields of economy, politics and culture,” Gabriel told journalists. He also said that “the right time has come for strengthening our economic partnership,” adding that there are already “numerous forms of dialogue” between the two countries.
The minister said that Germany tries to “make it clear for the US” that it is high time to solve the Ukrainian conflict. He went on to say that Germany wants to see a lasting ceasefire in Ukraine that would allow the political transition process envisaged by the Minsk Agreements to properly function.
Achieving peace in Ukraine would allow to “finally lift” the anti-Russian sanctions, Gabriel said, adding that it is the goal, which the German government pursues in its policy. He also said that the German government is working on getting this point across to Washington.
A study by the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO), published in October, showed that the economic sanctions the EU imposed against Russia had cost the bloc’s members billions of euros. A month earlier, UN Special Rapporteur Idriss Jazairy said that the EU has been losing at least $3.2 billion every month due to the anti-Russian sanctions.
In the meantime, the US continues to press for further penalties to be imposed against Russia. This summer, both chambers of the US Congress voted with veto-proof majorities to approve the bill which seeks to punish Russia over a raft of American-perceived “transgressions,” including its support for the Syrian government, alleged support for the rebels in Ukraine, as well as Crimea’s accession into Russia and Moscow’s purported meddling in last year’s US election.
The issue of sanctions has already become a stumbling block in relations between the US and Europe. In August, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said that the EU could come up with an “adequate” response just “within days” if the US sanctions hurt the interests of European companies working with Russia. Earlier, Berlin and Vienna criticized the sanctions, calling them an instrument of pursuing American economic interests at the expense of Europe.
Around the same time, German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries urged the European Commission to “look into countermeasures” to the US’s anti-Russian sanctions affecting European companies. She even said that the latest round of sanctions imposed by the US is “against international law.”
The sanctions were introduced in 2014 over Russia’s alleged involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The EU restrictions targeted Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors, along with some government officials, businessmen and public figures.
Moscow responded by imposing an embargo on agricultural produce and food and raw materials on countries that joined the anti-Russian sanctions. Since then the sides have repeatedly broadened and extended the restrictive measures.