President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron laid down new markers for Russia Thursday, giving Moscow a month to meet their conditions in Ukraine or face further sanctions.
The new thresholds for action were spelled out at a joint news conference, following a Group of Seven world leader summit that was re-arranged to exclude Russian President Vladimir Putin after his aggressive moves in Ukraine. The US and Europe also have imposed economic sanctions in response.
To avoid even harsher sanctions, Cameron said, Putin must meet three conditions: recognise Petro Poroshenko’s election as the new leader in Ukraine, stop arms from crossing the border and cease support for pro-Russian separatists concentrated in eastern Ukraine.
“If these things don’t happen, then sectoral sanctions will follow,” Cameron said. “The next month will be vital in judging if President Putin has taken these steps. And that is what I will urge President Putin to do when I meet him later today.”
Obama said the G7 leaders unanimously agree with the steps Cameron outlined. But they were not so explicit in written statements issued after two days of meetings, and an Obama aide later described the potential sanctions in different terms than Cameron.
“If Mr Putin takes those steps, then it is possible for us to begin to rebuild trust between Russia and its neighbors and Europe,” Obama said. “We will have a chance to see what Mr Putin does over the next two, three, four weeks, and if he remains on the current course, then we’ve already indicated the kinds of actions that we’re prepared to take.”
Obama acknowledged that so-called sectoral sanctions, which would hit key sectors of Russia’s economy, could have a bigger impact across Europe because of economic ties to Russia, and said he didn’t necessarily expect all European countries to agree on them. But, he said, “it’s important to take individual countries’ sensitivities in mind and make sure that everybody is ponying up.”
“My hope is, is that we don’t have to exercise them because Mr Putin’s made some better decisions,” Obama said.
Meanwhile in Paris, where Obama had dinner with French President Francois Hollande. The two ate at Le Chiberta, located on a side street just off the famed Champs-Elysees avenue. Hollande planned a second dinner Thursday with Putin so the US and Russian leaders would not have to cross paths.