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Can Europe Punish Russia Without Punishing Itself?

France's economic minister,   Emmanuel Macron/ getty

 

After the Russian annexation of Crimea and amid ongoing tensions with the Ukraine, Europe and the United States imposed sanctions, but the sanctions seem to be hurting Europe almost as much as they are burdening the Russian economy. There is pressure on Europeans to come to some sort of agreement with Russia to blunt the harsh effects on the European economy, while still maintaining its punitive stance against Russia. How to do that is an enormously difficult puzzle.

True, the sanctions are taking their effect, but the Russian economy and the ruble’s plunge seems as affected by plunging oil prices as it is by sanctions. It is possible that many Russians blame oil rather than sanctions, and the economic woes may not be felt as a punishment. Meanwhile, the European economy is sluggish and companies that do business with Russia are struggling.

France’s economic minister, Emmanuel Macron, told the AP that Europe should continue to put pressure on Russia to ease its tensions with the Ukraine independent of sanctions which are chipping away at the European economy. However, Macron added this can’t be done without a change on the Russian side. Meanwhile, many EU ministers are staunchly opposed to abandoning sanctions. France, Germany, Russia and the Ukraine are planning to set up talks in Astana, Kazakhstan to come up with a compromise.

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