President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that broad new economic sanctions would be imposed on Russia if its threat to eastern Ukraine disrupts the country’s presidential election later this month. //
The warning, delivered during a White House news conference, provided for the first time a specific threshold that Russia must not cross if it is to avoid further sanctions from Europe and the United States.
Appearing together at the White House, Obama and Merkel insisted they were united in their determination to use broad, so-called “sectoral sanctions” against Russia unless it reverses course in Ukraine by the elections on May 25.
Those measures could include sanctions against Russia’s lifeblood energy sector, banking system and mining industries, moves that would hurt Europe primarily but also ripple through the U.S. economy.
For weeks, the Obama administration has declined to specify what, short of a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine, would trigger the most severe sanctions to date in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea and support for pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukraine.
“The idea that you’re going to turn off the tap on all Russian oil or natural gas exports, I think, is unrealistic,” Obama said during the Rose Garden appearance. “But there are a range of, you know, approaches that can be taken not only in the energy sector but in the arms sector, the finance sector, in terms of lines of credit for trade, all that have a significant impact on Russia.”
Standing next to Obama, Merkel acknowledged that “further sanctions will be unavoidable” if Ukraine is unable to hold the May 25 presidential election, although she added that this is “something we do not want.”