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Obama and Merkel Are Fighting to Get Russia Sanctions Renewed

It's Obama and Merkel versus Germany's #2, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, with EU's Juncker and France's Hollande somewhere in the middle

Originally appeared at German Economic News. Translated by Kristina Aleshnikova

At the G20 summit some EU countries and the US apparently agreed on extending the sanctions against Russia. In the upcoming week Merkel is supposed to convince France’s President Hollande to join in.

Despite the emerging cooperation in the fight against the jihadist militia Islamic State (IS), western sanctions against Russia, which were introduced because of the annexation of Crimea and the Ukraine crisis, are to be renewed - according to a newspaper report. A preliminary decision regarding this was taken on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Turkey one week previously, the FAZ reported citing groups of participants.

During the G20 summit in Antalya a group of five agreed to maintain the sanctions, for as long as the Minsk agreements on the Ukraine conflict have not been implemented, reported the FAZ.  The meeting was attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), as well as Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who took part in the G20 summit on behalf of France’s President Francois Hollande after the Paris attacks.

According to the report, the five politicians claim that the Minsk agreements won’t be fulfilled before the end of the year.  The group therefore decided to extend the sanctions, which would expire at the end of the year, to July 2016.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is currently trying to end Russia’s diplomatic isolation; he sees Russia’s behavior in the Ukraine as constructive and wants Russia to return to the G8 group. The EU too doesn’t find the sanctions such a smart idea any more: President Jean-Claude Juncker has even commissioned a group of experts to evaluate the possibilities of cooperation with the Eurasian Union, which was initiated by Russia’s President Putin.

In Russia, this decision is likely to meet with incomprehension: Moscow has been extremely careful in recent months to in no way add fuel to the fire. In total contrast to the EU-supported regime in Kiev. Most recently Russia has tolerated that Crimea was boycotted and has undertaken no measures against the attacks on electricity pylons by Right wing Radicals. On Sunday night a large part of the power supply to Crimea was interrupted because of new attacks.

Nevertheless Russia must already have suspected that developments could again become unpleasant: Starting 1st January 2016, Russia plans to boycott the import of food products from the Ukraine, which will cause significant damage to the Ukrainian economy. It is likely that the EU taxpayer will be expected to pay for the loss of earnings. Ukraine is long since bankrupt and can only survive thanks to European and American tax dollars.

Merkel is travelling on Wednesday to meet Hollande in Paris. On Thursday the French President will then travel to a meeting in Moscow with the Russian Head of State Vladimir Putin.  According to the FAZ, the Chancellor’s visit should also serve to ensure that Paris remains firm on the sanctions issue. The French are fighting alongside the Russians against the IS. Germany is of course happy that Russia’s President is taking action and is evidently also successful, but doesn’t itself wish to get militarily involved.

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