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“Sanctions work before they have been decided”

22.07.2014 - Interview

Interview with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier ahead of the EU foreign ministers meeting on developments in Ukraine following the crash of aircraft MH17. Published in the Bild newspaper on 22 July 2014.

Interview with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier ahead of the EU foreign ministers meeting on developments in Ukraine following the crash of aircraft MH17. Published in the Bild newspaper on 22 July 2014.

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There is fighting in eastern Ukraine and chaotic conditions at the MH17 crash site. Why is the West so powerless?

It’s true that the images of the crash site that we have been seeing for days provoke feelings of rage and disgust. However, if no military solution is available for the conflict in eastern Ukraine, then political means are required. And these are not necessarily weaker. Political means can also exert pressure and hurt in the right places.

So far, sanctions against Russia have had almost no effect. Will this change if the EU foreign ministers decide on tougher sanctions today?

From the start, the stance taken by the West and Europe’s measures have not left Russia cold. It is noticeable that sanctions work before they have been decided. Capital flight, a slump in the economy, sanctions lists – all of this is already happening and Russia is already paying a high price for its policies. Nevertheless, we need to increase the pressure.

Does President Putin not want to stop the rebels in eastern Ukraine – or is he unable to do so?

President Putin has been saying for weeks that Russia is interested in a peaceful solution. Perhaps people in Donetsk and Luhansk don’t listen to every single word from Moscow, but Moscow certainly has an influence, particularly as regards controlling the border to Ukraine – and Russia has not made enough use of this so far. The infiltration of fighters and weapons must be stopped.

Or does he want to take over the entire eastern Ukraine region?

It doesn’t look like that, but if the aim was to destabilise Ukraine, then this has certainly been “successful”! Since the deaths of 300 innocent people, at the latest, the time has come for Russia to distance itself clearly and publicly from the separatists’ activities and to withdraw all forms of support.

Could UN peacekeepers defuse the situation?

A UN mission needs a robust mandate from the United Nations Security Council, a mandate that allows the use of force – and Russia would have to agree to this. I don’t see that happening at the moment. And apart from that, we would lose weeks as a result of a lengthy negotiation process in the Security Council about what form a UN mission should take.

Reproduced with the kind permission of Bild.

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