Merkel and Obama Agree on Russian Sanctions, Greek Reforms

REUTERS/Peter Kneffel/Pool
REUTERS/Peter Kneffel/Pool

The Group of Seven (G7) kicked off its annual summit this week with the situations in Ukraine and Greece on top of the agenda. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met privately on Sunday to hammer out details about the two countries.

The group became the G7 after they expelled Russia in 2014 due to its annexation of Crimea and aggression towards Ukraine. Obama made it known he will pressure the European leaders to adopt his moves on Russia, including extending sanctions on Moscow.

Before he left for Germany, Obama stated:

We think that there can be a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to this problem, but it’s going to require that Europe, the United States and the Transatlantic Partnership, as well as the world, stay vigilant and stay focused on the importance of upholding the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Merkel and Obama met at the Schloss Elmau, a luxury hotel in southern Germany. Merkel provided her guest with “some traditional Bavarian beer garden hospitality, with frothy ale, pretzels and oompah brass music played by locals in lederhosen.” But after the friendly meeting, both got down to business.

“The two leaders … agreed that the duration of sanctions should be clearly linked to Russia’s full implementation of the Minsk agreements and respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty,” explained the White House.

European Council President Donald Tusk sided with Obama. “If anyone wants to start a discussion about changing the sanctions regime, it could only be about strengthening it,” he said.

Merkel agreed with Obama that “economic sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine should not be lifted until a cease-fire accord there had been fully carried out and Moscow respected Ukraine’s sovereignty.” Fighting continues to escalate in east Ukraine as the Russian soldiers and pro-Russian separatists launch offensives against the Ukrainian army, and clashes this past week left 21 people dead. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told the Ukrainian people and the world the country faces an eventual Russian invasion.

“There is a colossal threat of a renewal of large-scale military operations from the side of the Russian-terrorist groups,” he said during his annual address to Parliament. “The military must be ready as much for a renewal of an offensive by the enemy in the Donbass as they are for a full-scale invasion along the whole length of the border with Russia. We must be truly ready for this.”

Obama and Merkel also discussed Greece’s debt and bailout. Merkel failed to obtain a deal with the Greek government before the summit. Both leaders “agreed Greece must reform and return to sustainable long-term growth.”