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Merkel Says Europe Shouldn’t Fear Punishing Russia on Ukraine

Russian Forces in Ukraine
Russian forces look out at a Ukrainian navy ship in the harbor of the Ukrainian city of Sevastopol on March 5, 2014. Photographer: Filippo Monteforte/AFP via Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Russia shouldn’t underrate the European Union’s resolve to impose economic sanctions in the conflict over Ukraine.

Addressing a convention of her Christian Democratic Union party today, Merkel evoked growing up in Soviet-dominated former East Germany and said Europe shouldn’t be “filled with fear” that “a certain measure may cause problems for us.”

“These times are confronting us with the question of where we stand,” Merkel said in Berlin. “Nobody should harbor any illusion. As different as we are in Europe, it’s our good fortune to be united and we will unite to make that decision” if Russia “violates Ukraine further.”

Merkel is boosting her domestic standing as she balances warnings to Russian President Vladimir Putin and pressure for sanctions by allies such as the U.S. with Germans’ concern that relations with Russia may worsen. Her approval rating and her Christian Democratic bloc’s voter support increased in an ARD television poll published this week.

Merkel said she’s working to “keep talking” with Russia. “But let me say that the strong can’t be above the law and we have to stand up for the rule of law, because otherwise all of our Sunday speeches will be empty talk,” she said to applause from about 1,000 convention delegates.

Energy Sanctions

European Union leaders agreed on March 17 to impose sanctions on 21 individuals after a referendum paved the way for Putin to annex Crimea from Ukraine. Western leaders warned that Russia would face added sanctions, including possibly on energy assets, if it moved deeper into Ukraine.

Merkel’s approval rating gained 2 percentage points to 71 percent, according to the Infratest poll for ARD published April 3. Support for the Christian Democrats rose 1 point to 42 percent while the Social Democrats, Merkel’s junior coalition partner, declined 3 points to 24 percent. The March 4-5 poll of 1,003 people has a margin of error of as many as 3.1 percentage points.

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