Germany and Europe want to ensure that new US sanctions against Russia do not lead to a new “ice age” in ties between Russia and the West, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Tuesday. Gabriel said he spoke with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about the sanctions in a meeting in Washington, adding that he was grateful that US President Donald Trump had agreed to coordinate on further measures with US allies. “We as Europeans have great concerns that this will have unintended consequences for Europe. We don’t want to completely destroy our business relations with Russia, especially in the energy sector,” Gabriel said.
Trump this month approved new sanctions on Moscow for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and for what US intelligence agencies say was its meddling in the US presidential election, a charge Russia denies.
Gabriel has criticised the United States for the move, saying the new punitive measures expose European companies involved in energy projects in Russia to fines for breaching US law. Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries even urged the EU to retaliate against the United States if the new sanctions on Russia should end up penalising German firms.
Gabriel said European leaders were concerned that the latest sanctions would not only have economic consequences, but could also “lead to a new ice age between Russia and the United States and the West.”
Despite European concerns about the sanctions, Gabriel insisted that Moscow must do its part to implement a fragile ceasefire agreement in place for eastern Ukraine, including the withdrawal of heavy weapons. “That would be a starting point for improved relations,” Gabriel said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President on Monday called for Russia and Ukraine to increase their efforts to implement the ceasefire agreement.
The conflict between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists has claimed more than 10,000 lives since it erupted in 2014. Germany and France have tried to convince both sides to implement a peace deal agreed in Minsk in 2015 but with little success so far.