Baltic countries have repeatedly criticized the German politician for his "courteous attitude" toward Russia. Most often, this criticism has sounded from Lithuania where anti-Russian sentiment is especially strong.
During his visit to the Baltic States, Steinmeier responded to these accusations, stressing that in his experience the problem can't be solved if it is being ignored and downplayed. The West can consider sanctions and military decisions, but it won't be able to achieve any progress if it does not consider the option of negotiations, the politician said.
"We can talk about the relief of the sanctions when the progress in the implementation of the Minsk agreements is achieved," Steinmeier told the magazine Der Spiegel earlier.
Recently, German officials announced the possibility of deploying its military forces to Lithuania as part of a NATO mission to deter an alleged Russian threat. A final decision on the deployment of German troops, however, has not yet been reached, German media reported.
Since 2014, NATO has been building up its military presence in Europe, particularly in eastern European countries bordering Russia, using Moscow's alleged interference in Ukraine as a pretext for the move.
Moscow has repeatedly denied the claims and warned NATO that the military buildup on Russia's borders is provocative and could harm regional and global stability.