EU Sanctions Hawk Says Russia Stance Wouldn’t Budge on U.S. Thaw

  • Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linkevicius speaks in interview
  • Baltic nation backs penalties despite trade ties to Russia

A weakening of U.S. sanctions against Russia after President-Elect Donald Trump takes office wouldn’t affect similar penalties imposed by the European Union, according to one of the trading bloc’s staunchest supporters of the measures.

“We aren’t going to review our policy,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said Tuesday in an interview in Vilnius, his country’s capital. “At the same time, we hope it will be coordinated with the U.S. as it was coordinated in the past.”

Mutual flattery between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin has fueled speculation that penalties enacted over the conflict in Ukraine will be partially or fully repealed. Trump has said he’d consider recognizing the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which Russia annexed before separatists it continues to back seized control of swathes of eastern Ukraine.

The sanctions -- targeting individuals, state-run banks and industries including energy -- have exacerbated economic pain as Russia grapples with a recession following the oil-price collapse. While the EU decided in December to roll over its penalties for another six months, the bloc’s unity is fraying. Extending the measures requires agreement from all 28 EU members.

Harder Line

President Barack Obama has sought to toughen sanctions against Russia during his final weeks in office following hacking allegations leveled at Putin’s government. A group of Senate Democrats and Republicans will this week introduce a measure that would provide congressional authorization for additional penalties against Russia.

While the military campaign in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has helped turn Russia into an international player, Linkevicius said Putin’s government should instead strive to become a partner that’s willing to join efforts to solve global issues. Despite the perceived thaw with the U.S. following Trump’s election triumph, previous instances where Russia “didn’t behave properly” with regard to the West mean better future ties aren’t guaranteed, he said.

“This happened not just once, not twice, it happened many times,” said Linkevicius, whose country is an ex-Soviet republic that borders Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave. “I don’t believe this would play with the new U.S. administration.”

— With assistance by Tony Czuczka

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