The fraying of sanctions

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin
June 17, 2016: As the EU debated sanctions, Western leaders like Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (R) were out in force at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum (source: dpa)
  • Sanctions fatigue is growing in the EU
  • Russian denial of involvement in east Ukraine, while absurd, makes a deal possible
  • Some EU leaders are seeking a fig-leaf pretext to lift sanctions and normalize relations
  • A ‘dirty deal’ would split the EU and NATO and trigger an angry backlash in Kiev

More than two years have passed since Ukraine became the focus of a heated standoff between Russia and the West. The damage has been the wholesale destruction of a European security architecture that had been laboriously put into place after the Cold War, when a new era of cooperation seemed to be in store. As evidenced by the recent NATO Summit in Warsaw, military escalation and deterrence are now again high on the Western agenda.

Given the obvious dangers involved, it would seem paramount to find a way to de-escalate, and thus to allow for a return to cooperative relations. Following numerous high-level meetings, however, it has become obvious that the Minsk peace process is so riddled by internal contradictions that any progress toward a settlement is hard to see. Simply freezing the conflict in Donbas is not a solution, either.

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