Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Behind Tough Talk on Russia, G-7 Leaders Face Tough Reality

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Behind Tough Talk on Russia, G-7 Leaders Face Tough Reality

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * Behind the tough talk on Russia expected from President Barack Obama and other leaders gathering in Germany this weekend is a stark reality.

None of the world powers believes the economic and diplomatic punishments levied on Russia for its alleged aggression in Ukraine are changing President Vladimir Putin's calculus, yet there are no plans to shift strategies.

At most, leaders hope to emerge from two days of talks in the Bavarian Alps with an agreement to keep U.S. and European Union sanctions against Russia in place, and perhaps a pledge to enact deeper economic penalties if the crisis escalates. While there is little expectation that a show of unity will lead to a quick resolution in Ukraine, officials hope it will at least give Putin pause if he is considering ratcheting up Russia's moves.

A fresh outbreak of violence between government troops and pro- Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine is threatening to derail an already tenuous cease-fire.

The fact that sanctions have not altered Putin's military posture is "a sign of how heedless the Russian government seems to be about the long-term welfare of its own people that it has not yet resulted in a change, in a reversal at least of course, which is what we want out of Russia," Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters after a Friday meeting in Germany with American military and diplomatic leaders.

The Group of Seven summit marks the second year in a row that leaders from the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan will assemble without Putin. After Russia annexed territory from Ukraine last year, the world powers kicked Russia out of what had been called the Group of Eight, a move aimed at isolating Putin and signaling the West's united opposition to his provocative actions.

Yet Putin remains a major player on pressing issues.

Russia is a partner of the U.S. and other nations in the nuclear talks with Iran, an Obama priority. Putin is a linchpin in any discussions on resolving the civil war in Syria, given Russia's status as President Bashar Assad's biggest benefactor. …

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