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Ukraine/Russia

Published on August 27, 2014
Statements by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, at the round table on economic diplomacy (excerpts)
Paris, August 25, 2014

(…)

Q. – Economic sanctions are clearly a topical subject, with the case of Russia, and I think a fundamental question really arises. Is there a real link between the position of [imposing] these sanctions and economic diplomacy on the part of the powers which could impose these sanctions? (…)

THE MINISTER – Sanctions are always costly, both for the country to which they’re applied and for the country or countries imposing them. Now, should we impose those sanctions or not? (…)

The situation is very complex, and I usually say there are two boundaries that must define the limits of our policy. On the one hand, democratic states like the European states and others can’t fail to react when one country, in this case Russia, annexes a part of another country, in this case Crimea, and interferes, to use a moderate term, in part of eastern Ukraine. If you don’t react at international level, that means you accept the principle that one country, because it’s stronger than another, can invade it, and so there’s no longer any international law or peace.

But on the other hand, there’s a limit to these reactions. It’s the limit of what’s reasonable, because who is going to propose that we wage war on Russia? Clearly, nobody reasonable. The policy we in Europe have chosen lies between those two boundaries. On the one hand we must react, and on the other we’re not going to wage war on Russia either.

And between those two boundaries lie both discussions and sanctions.
And this is why the Europeans were prompted, following the discussions, to impose a whole series of sanctions, and we’re currently at Level Three. We’re saying to the Russians: given the way you’ve behaved, here are the sanctions we’ve felt the need to take, which penalize you and which also penalize us. If you end some of your behaviour, we’ll ease or cancel those sanctions. If, on the other hand, you persevere and even aggravate the situation, we’ll increase the level of sanctions.

On these subjects, which are very delicate, you can’t take what I’d call an “armchair politics” attitude, saying the problem is unfolding a long way from France and we also have enough problems in France. You really have to think, and always bear in mind that France acts for its interests but also for what’s universal. There are discussions under way between us – with the Germans, the Ukrainians, the Russians and other countries.
France is one of the players which is saying, “firmness and dialogue, and sanctions”, but which is trying at the same time to ensure the various players talk to each other.

It’s not economic diplomacy on the one hand and sanctions on the other. The economy is one of the levels on which diplomacy must operate, and in special circumstances – I hope they don’t persist – you must impose sanctions, even if, at economic level, it has very heavy consequences on Russia. You’ve seen that the Russian growth rate is declining, as is foreign investment in Russia, and on our side farmers are being penalized. (…)./.

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