EU’s Mogherini tougher on Russia: ‘Bear’ needs firmness; sanctions not effective

The EU sanctions have had implications for the Russian economy yet their impact on the Russian policy is still in question, incoming EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stated on Monday.

She said at the confirmation hearings at the European Parliament she believed Russia’s economy “is starting to suffer quite a lot” because of EU sanctions, but she questioned whether the sanctions had been effective in changing Russian policies, Interfax-Ukraine reports.

“Are they effective on Russian political decisions? I think we still have a question mark there,” she said.

Mogherini argued that a political solution to the conflict the best route ahead and it was necessary to keep working with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

The Italian foreign minister has a Kremlin-friendly reputation after meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in July and after saying that his South Stream gas pipeline is good for Europe. Some eastern European EU states had sharply criticised Mogherini’s nomination in August, saying her record as Italian foreign minister and a centre-left politician showed she was too soft on Moscow over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

Facing European Parliament lawmakers in a confirmation hearing, she was asked how she would deal with the Russian “bear” — often used as diplomatic shorthand for a powerful and unpredictable Moscow.

“I do not have much experience of dealing with bears,” Mogherini said, suggesting her colleagues from countries closer to Russia might be better placed to answer the question.

“However, I would say we need a mix of assertiveness and diplomacy… the balance would depend on the reaction of the bear,” cited her.

Speaking of the sanctions imposed on Russia, Mogherini said, “We need to work maybe even on increasing the sanctions…if things get worse. We could lift the sanctions if things get better.”

She dismissed claims that Washington had pushed the EU into imposing sanctions on Russia and said, “The decisions taken in the European Council have never been easy but they have always been independent and based on European discussions.”

She also reiterated her view that there is no military solution to the Ukraine crisis.

“Russia might not be a partner at the moment, but it’s still a country with strategic importance in world affairs, so I guess we’ll need to deeply reassess our relations over the next five years”, EUobserver quotes her.

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