Washington, DC, United States (4E) – President Barack Obama and European leaders agreed on Monday to impose new sanctions against Russia’s energy, finance and military sectors in a bid to force Moscow to stop supporting separatists in Ukraine.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Obama reached the agreement during an unusual video conference, said Antony J. Blinken, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.
“Our purpose here again is not to punish Russia but to make clear that it must cease its support for the separatists and stop destabilizing Ukraine,” Blinken said, according to The New York Times (NYT). “We’ve seen a significant re-buildup of Russian forces along the border, potentially positioning Russia for a so-called humanitarian or peacekeeping intervention in Ukraine.”
The European leaders, however, will still have to get the consensus of all 28 members of the European Union on Tuesday.
While the U.S. this month blocked large Russian bank and energy firms from accessing capital from America, the EU imposed modest sanctions focusing more on individual Russians instead of its economy. Even the contemplated arms embargo covers only future European exports to Russia and will not stop France from completing its contract to supply helicopter carriers to Russia.
German businesses in particular oppose sanctions that will affect Russia’s natural gas sector, which supplies Germany with energy. However, the downing of a Malaysia Airlines commercial jet over eastern Ukraine on July 17 that killed 298 passengers and crews by alleged separatists armed by Russia has changed the minds of some German business leaders lately.
“A completely new situation has emerged which makes further measures necessary,” said Christiane Wirtz, spokeswoman for Merkel, in Berlin on Monday, according to NYT. “Only such a substantial package would enable the German government and the E.U. to send a clear, strong signal to Russia.”