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    EU, Moscow Look for Ways to 'Defuse the Stand-off Bypassing Washington'

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    Ahead of the upcoming renewal of Russian sanctions in July, some foreign policy experts have noted that there is no unity in the ranks of the EU on the extension of the punitive measures, and certainly, “there's room for movement” on the issue.

    “Each time the European Union's sanctions against Russia come up for renewal, there's speculation that some countries might break ranks and vote against the trade and financing restrictions,” Bloomberg columnist Leonid Bershidsky writes in his article.

    So far, he further notes, “these hopes have been dashed by the tough stance of the US administration, which views sanctions as a deterrent against further Russian aggression, and by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was outraged by Putin's treatment of Ukraine.”

    Now, both these obstacles have lessened somewhat, he states.

    The author further explains that Washington has been “disappointed by Ukraine's intransigence.”

    The “intransigence” refers to Ukraine’s reluctance to implement its part of the Minsk deal out of fear that Russia will not “keep its end of the bargain.”

    “This intransigence, along with Ukraine's permanent political crisis, inadequate economic reforms and rampant corruption, has caused weakened support in Washington. Additionally, the US establishment is preoccupied with the presidential election,” the author notes.

    On the other hand, the influx of Syrian refugees to Germany had undermined the political capital of the German Chancellor.

    So, Bershidsky notes, both the Kremlin and influential European figures “are looking for ways to start defusing the stand-off without losing face” and bypass Washington, which is still pushing for the punitive measures.

    While the sanctions will almost certainly be extended, he suggests, “no country wants to rebel on this matter while other more serious matters, such as the refugee crisis and Britain's EU referendum, are on the agenda for the bloc.” A weakening of the restrictions appears set to begin in the coming months.

    Similar view are echoed by the New Eastern Outlook website, which notes that certain cracks are appearing in EU unity regarding Russian sanctions.

    “The G-7 countries cast their votes early, a unanimous call for a renewal; and the EU Council was quick to follow, with ex-Polish President Donald Tusk, a hardcore Russophobe, making the announcement,” reads the article on the website,

    “But there are growing opposition rumbles being heard across Europe, led by some of the newer East European member countries who feel that the EU got suckered by US pressure for sanctions while the US only bears 10% of the lost business. EU exports of agricultural products were off 29% in the past year, equivalent to 4.4 billion Euros and an estimated 130,000 lost jobs.”

    According to author Jim W. Dean, those who are voting for the removal of the sanctions include France, Germany and, surprisingly, even Ukraine.

    However it still remains to be seen how the vote ends up.

    Related:

    Merkel Sees No Reason to Lift, Ease Anti-Russia Sanctions, EU to Decide
    New Reforms: How Low Oil Prices and Economic Sanctions Play for Russia
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    renewal, lifting, anti-Russian sanctions, European Union, Germany, United States, Russia
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