The United States and Germany agreed on toughening the sanctions imposed on Russia in case Moscow does not stop the aggression against Ukraine. However, President Obama declaimed the delivery of lethal weapons from the U.S. to the Ukrainian army as only a possible option. During a press conference organized in Washington for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit, Obama explained that for the moment, no decisions have been made.
President Obama stated that the United States would support initiatives to find a diplomatic solution for the conflict in Ukraine. He also warned that if the negotiations on Wednesday between European leaders and President Vladimir Putin produce no result, the U.S. would have to keep all its options open, including delivering lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine. The U.S. president also emphasized that the possibility of resolving this conflict through military action is “low,” considering Russia’s military power.
“We also stand up for the interests of the European peaceful order. And this is what the French president and I have been trying to do over the past few days,” said Merkel. “We continue to pursue a diplomatic solution … I don’t see a military solution to this conflict,” Merkel insisted.
“For somebody who comes from Europe, I can only say if we give up this principle of territorial integrity of countries, then we will not be able to maintain the peaceful order of Europe that we've been able to achieve,” warned the German chancellor during a joint press conference at the White House with President Obama.
Angela Merkel’s prudent message was well-received by Obama, who was reluctant to accept the propositions coming from a Congress dominated by the Republican Party. In Washington, the president has received criticism from those who are in favor of offering decisive help to Kiev against the separatists in eastern Ukraine, even though this would lead to an even greater deterioration of relations with President Putin.
“The Ukrainians are being slaughtered and we’re sending them blankets and meals. Blankets don’t do well against Russian tanks,” said Sen. John McCain during the Munich Security Conference at the end of last week.
During the same event, Chancellor Merkel stated that every option there is to resolve the conflict in Ukraine through diplomacy needs to be favored, even if there’s no certainty that any of them will lead to an agreement with President Putin. “I understand the debate, but I believe more weapons will not lead to the progress Ukraine needs. I really doubt that,” added Merkel.
Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will be meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 12 in Minsk with Vladimir Putin to discuss plans for peace in eastern Ukraine.
The application of new sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU was delayed until Dec. 16, offering a window of opportunity for negotiations in the so-called “Normandy format” (France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia). At the end of last week in Moscow, Merkel and Hollande presented a peace plan to President Putin. The reactions of the three leaders after the meeting in Kremlin were extremely prudent.
Both Germany and France support a diplomatic solution in Ukraine, as well as the introduction of a new area of control by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) at the Ukrainian-Russian border. The General Secretary of the OSCE raised the possibility of “transnistriating”* the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which is by no means a desirable solution for Washington, first of all, nor for the allied countries in Eastern Europe.
*Editor’s note: This expression stems from a reference to the piece of land known as Transnistria between the Dniester River and the Moldovan-Ukrainian border. It is considered a “breakaway” state with limited recognition outside its borders.