Putin and Trump likely to discuss Ukraine sanctions
Susan Heavey, Christian Lowe, Reuters, Jan 27 2017
FASCHINGSTEIN/ MOSCOW – Pres Putin and Pres Trump are likely to discuss the sanctions that Faschinghstein imposed on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine when they speak by telephone on Saturday, said Sean Spicer. Trump has said in the past that as part of a rapprochement he is seeking with Russia, he is prepared to review sanctions imposed over Crimea. That move would face resistance from both influential figures in Faschingstein and foreign leaders who believe sanctions should only be eased if Moscow complies with the West’s conditions on Ukraine. Among the sanctions causing the most pain to Russia are those targeting its financial services, limiting the Russian economy’s ability to raise debt, and its energy companies. On Saturday, Trump will have telephone conversation with Putin, Merkel and Hollande, Sean Spicer wrote in a Tweet. Both Hollande and Merkel have argued that it is premature to ease the sanctions. Kellyanne Conway said in TV interviews on Friday that Trump and Putin would likely discuss a range of issues, including joint efforts to combat terrorism. Asked on Fox & Friends to comment on suggestions that the Obama administration sanctions would be on the agenda, Conway said:
All of that is under consideration.
The call will be the first between the Russian and Pindo leaders since Putin called Trump to congratulate him on his election victory in November. It is a first step towards what Trump has billed as a normalization of relations after three years of tensions sparked by the conflict in Ukraine. Trump and Putin have never met, but both have spoken about ending the enmity that has dragged Pindo-Russian relations to their lowest ebb since the Cold War. Trump told a news conference in July last year:
Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with people? Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along, as an example, with Russia? I am all for it!
Putin spox Dmitry Peskov said that Putin would use the call to congratulate Trump on taking office, and to exchange views on Pindo-Russian ties. Asked by reporters if Ukraine would come up, Peskov said:
This is the first telephone contact since Pres Trump took office, so one should hardly expect that (it) will involve substantive discussions across the whole range of issues. We’ll see. Let’s be patient.
Putin is expected to run for re-election next year, and a softening or removal of sanctions would allow Western investment and credit to flow in, but any move by Trump to ease sanctions would create a dilemma for the EU, which has its own set of sanctions against Russia. Merkel, who also faces a re-election battle, has invested considerable political capital in keeping the EU behind the sanctions. A German diplomat told Reuters last month:
If Trump lifts the sanctions, I fear the consensus in Europe would crumble.
Merkel and Hollande met in Berlin on Friday. Hollande, who will leave office after an April-May election, told reporters:
Let’s say it honestly, there is the challenge posed by the new Pindosi administration regarding trade rules and what our position will be on managing conflicts in the world.