While Angela Merkel has publicly threatened that Russia risks "massive economic and political harm" if it doesn't change course, Germany's envoy to Russia, Gernot Erler, has more realistic concerns. As Bloomberg reports, Erler warned that US sanctions are counterproductive and probably won't make Putin bow to Western demands.
The sudden German show of restraint is hardly surprising given their exposure to Russian energy provision and the fact that a stunning 54% of Germans believe the EU and US should accept Russia's annexation of Crimea.
Erler goes in to note that "starting the spiral of sanctions reduces possibilities for dialogue," and warned against completely excluding Russia from the G-8 (as Merkel had suggested a day earlier).
U.S. sanctions on Russia are counterproductive and probably won’t make President Vladimir Putin bow to Western demands on Ukraine, said Gernot Erler, the German government’s coordinator for relations with Russia.
Erler’s comments in an interview in Berlin today reflect German restraint on punishing Russia for its annexation of Crimea and differ in tone from Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has said Russia risks “massive economic and political harm” if it doesn’t change course. Erler, whose Social Democratic Party is Merkel’s junior coalition partner, plans to travel to Moscow for talks with Russian officials on March 24-25.
Financial sanctions ordered by President Barack Obama yesterday and Russia’s response of denying entry to nine U.S. officials show that “we’re already seeing a spiral,” which makes “saving face” more difficult, Erler said.
“Starting the spiral of sanctions reduces possibilities for dialogue,” Erler, 69, said at his office two blocks from the Brandenburg Gate. “That’s regrettable. Based on experience, I have low expectations about the short-term effectiveness of sanctions.”
“Russia views itself as a world power at eye level with America,” he said. “We’re dealing with a very self-confident power, that won’t change its policy under outside pressure. That wouldn’t work with America, either.”
Erler also warned against “completely excluding” Russia from the Group of Eight nations, a day after Merkel said the forum “doesn’t exist anymore” for now. Still, Erler said there’s “a strong consensus” in German policy toward Russia.
Restricting Russian energy imports probably wouldn’t be among the sanctions, he said, citing Russian gas flows that “always worked” during the Cold War.