- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 7, 2015

President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed Sunday to extend economic sanctions against Russia for its continued aggression in Ukraine, amid signs that the president was trying to repair relations with his German host.

The two leaders met in Bavaria before the annual summit of leaders from the Group of Seven industrialized nations. The White House said Mr. Obama and Mrs. Merkel agreed that sanctions “should be clearly linked to Russia’s full implementation” of a Ukrainian peace accord and Russian respect for its neighbor’s sovereignty.

European leaders will meet later this summer to decide whether to extend the penalties against Moscow and Russian-backed separatists, who have intensified fighting in the past week in eastern Ukraine. Mr. Obama said one of the priorities of the G-7 summit will be “standing up to Russian aggression in Ukraine.”

European Union President Donald Tusk said that because the Ukraine peace deal reached in February has not been fully implemented, the only question for the 28-nation EU is whether to make the sanctions against Russia even tougher.

“If anyone wants to start a debate about changing the sanctions regime, the discussion could only be about strengthening them,” said Mr. Tusk, a former Polish prime minister.

Before the president arrived for the summit, Speaker John A. Boehner called on Mr. Obama to increase the scale and power of U.S. military assistance to Ukraine. The House passed a bipartisan resolution in May in support of sending U.S. arms to the Ukrainian military.

“President Obama refuses to do the right thing,” Mr. Boehner said in a statement. “As a result, [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s hostile acts have gone unchecked. Today, violence is increasing in eastern Ukraine and heavy weapons continue to move across the Russian border. … Words and photo ops will not beat back Russian aggression.”

But White House press secretary Josh Earnest said providing offensive arms “would only further escalate a situation that must be resolved diplomatically.”

“The president’s view has not changed about, at this point, not providing additional offensive military assistance to Ukraine,” Mr. Earnest said, who acknowledged that Moscow’s continued military provocations show that “Russia has essentially thumbed their nose” at the peace accord.

Mr. Earnest said the president and Mrs. Merkel agreed that it is important for the West “to show unity in confronting Russia over their destabilizing actions.”

Mr. Putin was kicked out of the group formerly known as the G-8 last year over his aggression in Ukraine. The U.S. and its European allies imposed several rounds of economic sanctions on Russia after it annexed the Crimean Peninsula.

As the summit opened, thousands of German police patrolled a security perimeter around an exclusive Bavarian hotel, and a few hundred protesters chanted anti-capitalist slogans.

Mr. Obama began his meetings with Mrs. Merkel Sunday with a public display of friendliness as he sought to smooth over lingering anger in Germany about revelations of extensive U.S. spying on its ally. The president praised the German chancellor as “my great friend and partner,” and extolled her leadership on various international issues.

Mrs. Merkel spoke of occasional “differences of opinion” between the two countries, but described the U.S. as an “essential partner.”

In the Bavarian town of Krun, Mr. Obama also hoisted a beer with his hosts and spoke admiringly of German culture.

“I have to admit I forgot to bring my lederhosen, I’ll have to see if I can buy some while I’m here,” he said.

One German newspaper said Mrs. Merkel’s photo-ops with Mr. Obama were a misleading “pretty picture” that didn’t dispel the public’s anti-U.S. feelings in the wake of revelations of National Security Agency surveillance of the German government. On Sunday, the first day for the two-day gathering, the leaders spent more than an hour discussing trade issues. The talks in the majestic Bavarian Alps coincided with the delicate debate in Washington over giving Obama the authority to move trade agreements through Congress more quickly, with big deal with Asia and the European Union now being negotiated.

Mr. Putin, in an interview with an Italian newspaper of the weekend, said he had not regrets about his Ukrainian policy, saying the crisis should be blamed on the actions of the government in Kiev and its backers in the West.

“The situation in Ukraine would have developed in an absolutely different way if the Americans and Europeans had stopped supporting those who resorted to unconstitutional actions,” he said. “So, I believe that this crisis was created deliberately and it is the result of our partner’s unprofessional actions.”

⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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