Obama Defends His 'Lockstep With Europe' Approach to Sanctions on Russia

© REUTERS / Kevin LamarqueU.S. President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about immigration reform during a visit to Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada November 21, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about immigration reform during a visit to Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada November 21, 2014 - Sputnik International
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Addressing a meeting of the President's Export Council, Obama asked the US business community to support his course on keeping Europe in lockstep with Washington "as there may be some movement out of Congress for us to get ahead of Europe further."

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WASHINGTON, December 11 (Sputnik) — US President Barack Obama expressed caution on Thursday about the United States unilaterally ratcheting up sanctions against Russia over Ukraine as the move could divide the United States and Europe on the issue.

"Where [Russian President Vladimir] Putin will succeed is if it creates a rift in the Trans-Atlantic relationship. If he starts seeing Europe divided from the United States that would be his strategic victory," Obama said addressing a meeting of the President's Export Council.

Obama asked the US business community to support his course on keeping Europe in lockstep with Washington, "as there may be some movement out of Congress for us to get ahead of Europe further".

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The United States has been "successful with sanctions precisely because we've been systematic about it and made sure there wasn't a lot of daylight between us and the Europeans," he emphasized.

The US president also called for "strategic patience", saying that simply ratcheting up restrictions against Russia was not enough to make Russian leadership change its stance on Ukraine.

"The notion that we can simply ratchet up sanctions further and further and further and then ultimately [Russian President Vladimir] Putin changes his mind, I think is a miscalculation," he said.

Last week, the US House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution calling on Obama to “cooperate with allies and partners in Europe and other countries” to step up measures against Russia.

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The United States, alongside the European Union and a number of their allies has introduced several rounds of sanctions against Russia in recent months, accusing Moscow of meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs. The Russian side has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Ukrainian crisis.

Moscow responded to Western sanctions with a one-year import ban on certain food products in August.

The current sanctions regime has already backfired on a number of European economies. Germany has seen an economic slowdown partially related to the export ban on deep-water drilling equipment to Russia, while countries such as the Baltic states, Poland, Finland and Norway have suffered due to Russia’s food import ban, according to a recent UN report.

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