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Strenghten sanctions as part of a stronger and more consistent strategy towards Russia

20 October 2016

Strenghten sanctions as part of a stronger and more consistent strategy towards Russia

The Minsk Agreements have become a clear condition for any debate on a possible lifting of sanctions against Russia. Russia has continued its aggression in Ukraine and has not yet fulfilled its part of the Minsk Agreements. The situation calls for a debate on the role of sanctions towards Russia.

The Minsk Agreements have become a clear condition for any debate on a possible lifting of sanctions against Russia. Russia has continued its aggression in Ukraine and has not yet fulfilled its part of the Minsk Agreements. The situation calls for a debate on the role of sanctions towards Russia.

Today, ECR MEP, Charles Tannock, was co-hosting this debate in the European Parliament together with representatives from ALDE, S&D, Greens/EFA, EPP, and the Open Dialog Foundation. Russian experts from political, academic and civil society were invited to share their views on the effectiveness of EU sanctions imposed on Russia.

A common conclusion was clear after today’s debate. A lift of sanctions is definitely not on the table. Russia has not implemented its part of the peace agreements. Putin does not understand the concept of dialog in negotiations. He only understands power. EU can show its power by imposing sanctions on Russia. Sanctions have proven to work, and since Russia does not fulfil its part of the peace agreement, sanctions should be strengthened.

As part of the opening remarks, Charles Tannock said: “Nobody thought Putin would go that far, and sadly he got away with it, so far. This behaviour cannot go on. We cannot turn back to business as usual with Russia. We need to think of fresh initiatives”.

In the conflict area of Ukraine, children are getting used to living their daily lives in a war zone. Peace agreements have not worked as intended. Elections in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions have not taken place yet. A large number of people have been killed, and the fighting continues.

Alexander Hug, Principal Deputy chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, presented facts and figures proving that the implementation of peace agreements is unsuccessful, and there is even an increase in use of artillery.

Ahead of tomorrow’s EU summit on EU-Russia relations, today’s debate served as part of an evaluation of the EU’s current strategy on sanctions. Whether the discussions in the EU summit tomorrow will focus on Russia’s role in Syria or Ukraine, the views of today’s debate highlight the overall importance of imposing sanctions on Russia.

In order to ensure implementation of the Minsk Agreement, the EU must strengthen economic sanctions on Russia. This is the EU’s way of fighting power with power, because power is the only concept that Putin understands. The whole panel of today’s debate agreed on this. They also agreed that the sanctions work. They hurt the Russian economy and hereby Putin’s image as a leader.

Therefore, the sanctions should continue but also have a stronger impact, since the peace agreement is still not implemented. According to President of the Open Dialog Foundation, Lyudmyla Kozlovska, and specialist in foreign affairs from EUobserver, Andrew Rettman, the sanctions need to be more targeted towards Russian elites. This means, for example, to freeze these elites’ assets in the West. Much of the dirty money coming from corruption in Russia ends up in our banks in Europe.

Furthermore, sanctions should also hit more strongly the Russian energy sector and make Europe less dependent on energy from Russia.

Lastly, the EU should connect more with the civil society in Russia. It is important to support democratic voices and free media in Russia. We must seek to protect both the Russian and European population against Putin’s propaganda, which is part of his long-term strategy to destroy the EU.

Overall, sanctions should be considered just one part of an overall strategy towards Putin, and they should aim at a regime change in Russia, according to Rettman and Andrey Illarionov, political analyst and former adviser of Putin.

If the EU is not persistent enough in its approach towards Russia, it will lead to failure. Currently we see this in Aleppo. Putin needs to understand that the West does not tolerate his actions, and that they have consequences that will hurt him.

Weakness comes from doubting the impact of sanctions. The EU must be strong and consistent in imposing economic sanctions on Russia. It is the only way forward, and it is the only way to damage Putin and prevent his aggressions.

Today Chancellor Merkel is hosting Putin at the Berlin summit on Ukraine together with French President Hollande and Ukrainian President Poroshenko. They will discuss the implementation of the Minsk agreement.

Ahead of the meeting, Merkel, Hollande, and Poroshenko agreed to put pressure on Moscow, so let us hope that the summit will mark a new step towards a stronger and more consistent approach towards Putin.

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