News / Europe

Obama, Merkel Warn Russia on Ukraine

Obama, Merkel Threaten Tougher Sanctions On Russiai
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Kent Klein
May 02, 2014 8:55 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are threatening tougher sanctions against Russia if it does not stop its alleged military operations in Ukraine. As VOA's Kent Klein reports, the two leaders discussed further steps against the Kremlin when they met Friday at the White House.
Related video report by VOA's Kent Klein
VOA News
If Moscow continues fueling unrest in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin and others in his leadership circle will face increasingly broad sanctions, U.S. President Barack Obama warned on Friday.  

Appearing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden, Obama praised her for being a strong partner on Ukraine.

The two nations, he said, “are united in our unwavering support for Ukraine.”

Any Russian attempts to interfere with Ukraine's May 25 presidential election would prompt new pressure on Russia's energy sector, Obama said. Ukraine's parliament had voted in February to remove Victor Yanukovych as the country's leader.
 
Both Obama and Merkel said they want to see a diplomatic resolution to the crisis. Otherwise, Putin and others involved in destabilizing Ukraine “will face increasing costs as well as growing isolation,” Obama said.

Sanctions, imposed in March after Russia annexed Crimea, were expanded April 28. They include visa bans and the freezing of any U.S. assets for nearly 50 political and business allies of Putin.

New violence involving pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine suggests the measures are not curbing the Kremlin.

Obama also urged Moscow to press pro-Russia militants to free the seven military observers taken hostage last weekend. Continued detention of the observers, from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, is "disgraceful" and "inexcusable," Obama said. 

During meetings Friday, the two leaders were to discuss the National Security Agency's spy program, which targeted Merkel's phone conversations and caused tension between the two allies. Since then, "we've tried to reform what we do," Obama said at the news conference, emphasizing the continued need to balance privacy and security concerns.

Merkel and Obama said they were united in the goals of supporting Ukraine and of penalizing Russian leaders for fomenting unrest there.

"We're united in our support for Ukraine, including the very important IMF program approved this week," Obama said. The International Monetary Fund announced a $17 billion, two-year aid package to the besieged country.

Obama promised "sectoral sanctions" on Russia if Moscow disrupted plans for Ukraine's election. The energy and banking sectors, plus military arms sales, are among the most likely targets.    

Some of Germany’s largest businesses have voiced strong opposition to broader sanctions against Russia, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

They include Deutsche Bank, Volkswagen, Adidas, chemical giant BASF and engineering and electronics conglomerate Siemens, all with operations in Russia.

Getting  Europe to agree to tougher sanctions has been a challenge for Obama.  Some European nations have tight economic ties to Russia and many of them depend heavily on Russian oil and gas imports.
 
Moscow has indicated it is willing to use its gas supplies as leverage in the dispute over Ukraine. Russia has substantially raised the price of gas to Ukraine and threatened to reduce the amount it supplies.  
 
In their conversations Friday, Obama and Merkel discussed the need for Europe to diversify its energy sources.

At the news conference, Merkel called for support of the proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which would ease trade restrictions between the U.S. and Europe.

"We are firmly convinced this offers a lot of opportunities" to trade partners, Merkel said.

She later addressed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce concerning the strength of the German-American relationship and trans-Atlantic trade.  
 
VOA White House reporter Luis Ramirez and Reuters contributed to this report.

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by: Borenasa from: Ghana
May 02, 2014 1:48 PM
America n it's allies are very selective when it comes to global security. I believe if what is happening in ukraine was to in africa or the arab world, they would have called for a UN security council resolution to go n fight there. i can't imagine why they applying economic sanctions. i challenge france to go and apply their tactics on tuareg rebels in mali on these separatist in ukraine. only in africa that france boast that they are men to the extend of overthrowing n capturing sitting presidents(gbagbo). i want to see france in ukraine

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
May 02, 2014 1:48 PM
I watched Obama and Merkel stand in a news conference and declare that sanction is a second option to diplomatic moves. While Merkel stood like she was goaded by Obama to say what she was saying, she displayed an abject incompetence to be head of a stare like Germany which is by all standard a world power both economically and militarily - even if not a declared one. Standing there being directed by Obama to agree to a sanction on a third of German economy is like sentencing a third of its population to some kind of hardship, or asking a third of the country's unemployed labor market to say goodbye forever to the idea of ever finding a job. This is share ineptitude.

I wish the voting public in Germany is watching her and her party and would show them the way out in the next election. For a president who is good at following the footsteps of others without having her own initiative is not good enough for Germany. Maybe she has become too old for the job especially without a most primary constituency - that could call her to some reason. No wonder Europe is drifting for lack of purposeful leadership, if only Merkel could grovel that much to a security ideology that does not even trust her but must spy on her to see how much she's been in pally with the enemies. This is not the way to rebuild the trust, instead it is a betrayal of both trust in her by Germans who have placed their fate in her leadership. It's a disgrace to say the least.

by: melwin from: India
May 02, 2014 12:55 PM
If America and other countries are trying to isolate " RUSSIA" this so that America lack the capability of being a superpower.

by: tui from: Moscow
May 02, 2014 11:47 AM
Nobody will fight with Russia in coming years,but economic sanctions must be tight enough to harm Russia 's economy,so Putin will lose his popularity and will be overthrown.
In Response

by: melwin from: India
May 02, 2014 1:15 PM
LIONS cannot be overthrown You are just a kid

by: meanbill from: USA
May 02, 2014 10:52 AM
The US and NATO has retrained it's military to smaller "quick strike" operations, against much smaller and in weaker country conflicts - (AND?) - doesn't possess the ability for a larger conflict with a country like Russia...
Where would the US and NATO draw their military forces from around the world, and how long would it take to equip and ship them thousands of miles to Ukraine? -- That's the "weakness" of the US and NATO forces, (there's to many hotspots), and they don't have enough military to cover them all..
NATO is outdated, and the US lacks leadership, and it's military is stretched to the breaking point... "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu...
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