EU officials have confirmed that Russian sanctions will be extended for another six months. Handelsblatt:
E.U. countries from eastern Europe, traditionally critical of Russia, wanted to extend the sanctions by a full year while southern European countries argued for an extension of just three or four months. Six months was the compromise, sources in Brussels said.
Publicly, Russia is taking sanctions in stride. In remarks yesterday, Vladimir Putin remained unbowed and warned that Russia must prepare itself for longer sanctions and sustained low commodity prices. Meanwhile, John Kerry was at NATO headquarters yesterday, where he had a clear message for Russia. Reuters reports:
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to act: “If Moscow wants relief from sanctions … it is there for the getting.”
“Implement Minsk and this can be achieved,” he told a separate news conference following a meeting of NATO foreign ministers who discussed the Ukraine crisis.
Between the U.S. and Eastern Europe, on the one hand, and Russia, on the other, is the rest of Europe: Germany and southern Europe aren’t thrilled with sanctions. Many companies had been pushing for them to be lifted, although those businesses seemed to have quieted down for now. If some in Europe had their way, the six-month extension compromise would be the last one Washington and eastern European countries would secure. And yet circumstances are conspiring to make it difficult for those opposed to sanctions to press their case. Escalating tensions between Crimea, Moscow, and Kiev over electricity and gas supplies suggest that any semblance of peace is far off in Ukraine. That makes it harder for leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel to scale back all sanctions.