“French Leader Urges End to Sanctions Over Ukraine”
The New York Times, January 6, 2015, p.A6
“Western nations should stop threatening Russia with new sanctions and instead offer to ease off on existing restrictions in exchange for progress in the peace process in Ukraine, President François Hollande of France said in an interview on Monday. Backing President Vladimir V. Putin into a corner will not work, he said, giving a high-level voice to what is seen as mounting sanctions fatigue among European politicians, as the Ukraine crisis lurches into a second year. … In Germany, the vice chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, also signaled concerns about the effect of sanctions on Russia’s stability. … Germany is the most influential European voice on the sanctions issue, and it is widely assumed that little will happen without the approval of its chancellor, Angela Merkel. A spokesman for Ms. Merkel, Steffen Seibert, clarified to Reuters that ‘we have a very clear idea of what constitutes real progress’ before Germany will consider lifting existing sanctions.”
Quickie Analysis: France has never been keen on taking foreign policy directives from its allies, but Hollande is right that, as inducement for better behavior, sanctions are only as good as the promise of their removal if certain benchmarks are met. Agreeing on what those benchmarks should be may prove much more difficult for Western countries than agreeing on the sanctions in the first place.