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Conflict

'Russia can endure sanctions for a long time'

The EU has agreed to step up sanctions on Russia for Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis. CDU foreign policy specialist Philipp Missfelder tells DW that economic sanctions can be effective, but are 'no panacea.'

DW: The European Union plans to impose economic sanctions against Russia as soon as possible. They are intended to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin into contributing to deescalation in the region, by acting on the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Will EU sanctions achieve this?

The sanctions will certainly provoke discussions in Russia. Among the elite, but also in business circles, they will be asking themselves: Is it worth it for us to accept so many losses because of Ukraine and Crimea? This debate has not yet taken place in Russia.

The Russian oligarchs would be particularly affected by an expansion of sanctions. How influential are they?

The oligarchs no longer have as much power as before. Putin has caused them to lose influence. It's primarily a matter of addressing Putin's immediate circle to try to initiate a rethinking process there.

What effect have the recent sanctions such as travel bans and account freezes already had?

The existing sanctions have already had a certain effect. But sanctions cannot replace a political solution. Russia has the potential to endure them for a long time and to tighten its belt. Why should therefore not believe that sanctions are a panacea.

What form could a political solution take?

There must be a ceasefire. The Russians must work for one, and to a greater extent than previously. Once there is a ceasefire, we can use the political latitude to approach each other and to try to develop a sustainable model for the entire Ukraine.

President Putin still says that he does not directly support the separatists.

The Americans have repeatedly told us their evidence shows otherwise. In Germany, too, many have said they do not believe Russia. In doubt, it's one side's word against the other. If there is a will on both sides to come to a political solution, we should avoid recrimination. We should also refrain from trying to define over and over again who started the conflict.

To what extent has the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner influenced the EU's policy in Ukraine conflict?

The EU policy is still very sluggish. In part, this is due to the dire economic situation in which some member states find themselves. Sometimes there is also a completely different approach to some issues, such as arms exports. In Germany, the discussion of this topic has been very critical for years. In Britain and France, it's obviously different. Britain is always strongest when it comes to criticism of Russia - and then suddenly we hear that the British have continued to deliver weapons to Russia. This shows a certain duplicity in the debate.

If there were a ceasefire in which the United Nations itself decided on a peacekeeping mission in Ukraine, would you favor German participation in such a mission?

I'm not generally against it, but certain requirements would have to be met. A mission like that could only be implemented by a UN Security Council resolution. If you set up a military buffer zone, it could lead to a situation such as in Northern Cyprus. For 40 years, the UN has been in Northern Cyprus to ensure security and stability between Turkey and Cyprus, but the conflict is not yet resolved. The conflict has been frozen. For Ukraine, we want to try to find a political and viable solution for the whole country - with eastern Ukraine and not without it.

What impact will the resignation of the Ukrainian government have on further developments in the conflict?

It shows that the political situation in Ukraine is very unstable. There are many oligarchs who are playing their own game and trying to get their assets to safety. If this unstable situation continues in conjunction with oligarchy, the country could threaten to collapse.

Philipp Missfelder has been a member of the German parliament since 2005 and foreign policy spokesman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group since 2009.

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