Polish Foreign Chief: EU Harsher Stance on Crimea Could Have Prevented Ukraine Conflict

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EU's harsher reaction to Russia's reunification with Crimea in mid-March could have prevented the current crisis in eastern Ukraine, the Polish foreign minister told EurActiv in an exclusive interview Friday.

MOSCOW, September 12 (RIA Novosti) – EU's harsher reaction to Russia's reunification with Crimea in mid-March could have prevented the current crisis in eastern Ukraine, the Polish foreign minister told EurActiv in an exclusive interview Friday.

"Possibly, if the EU's reaction to the Crimea… [reunification with Russia] had been vigorous enough and we had pushed forward for more decisive, immediate sanctions, then [the conflict in] Donetsk would not have happened," Radoslaw Sikorski said.

When Russia decided to reincorporate Crimea, Poland "had to clearly communicate to Moscow that it has to stop," the foreign minister added.

Poland, which has been pressing for tougher sanctions against Moscow, is one of the countries shaping the EU foreign policy during the current Ukrainian crisis. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who resigned earlier this week, was appointed as the next President of the European Council at the EU Summit in Brussels held on August 30. He is due to take office on December 1, succeeding the current President Herman Van Rompuy.

Since Russia's reunification with Crimea, the United States and the European Union have introduced several rounds of targeted sanctions against Russia's economic, defense and energy sectors, as well as dozens government officials, accusing Moscow for meddling in Ukraine's internal affairs.

Earlier Friday, the EU announced in its Official Journal it was imposing a new round of sanctions on Russia, including those targeting the country's major defense and energy companies.

"Europe is starting to understand the value of solidarity and standing together. Not only against Russia. Better coordination among European countries translates into better security and economic position in the long run for all of us," Sikorski said.

The Ukrainian conflict has "reinvigorated both NATO and the EU," the diplomat said, adding: "Transatlantic cooperation and close ties between Europe and the US are the foundation of our common prosperity and security."

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday the crisis in eastern Ukraine, which has been provoked by the West, is mainly used to "resuscitate" the US-led military alliance, NATO.

NATO has been boosting its military presence close to Russia's border since March. Moscow has repeatedly expressed concern over the bloc's military activities.

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