Talks are ongoing between the United States and Russia, mainly on Syria and Ukraine. The intensification of bilateral dialogue is a positive development. But against the backdrop, beyond the issue of international terrorism, economic sanctions remain both the obstacle and the key to possible advances in the settlement of bilateral disputes. The Russian government continues to protest against the western sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine and would be worrying about additional sanctions being envisaged by Washington as a result of Russian military engagement in Syria. “If Moscow wants relief from sanctions, (…) Implement Minsk and this can be achieved,” said US State Secretary John Kerry.
In Moscow, officials demand the end of sanctions that Kerry’s counterpart Sergei Lavrov considers as “absurd and amoral”. Also, “special sanctions” are being drafted as a response that would target the imports of Ukrainian food. Given that there could be a rise in tensions following the start of NATO admission talks with Montenegro without a referendum, sanctions should likely continue to weigh on the Russian-American relationship. In the end however, that is the European Union (EU), particularly the French economy, which suffers from western sanctions against Russia and of which the global cost for the EU could exceed €100 billion over the last two years.