Thursday, June 4, 2015

No return to a G8 with Russia - ever - DW: "Reverting to a G8 format with Russia would do nothing to improve the conditions for addressing global problems. The only thing it would do is turn the G8 into the format to deal with the problems Russia itself is causing in Europe's neighborhood. But the G8 was never intended as a format to exclusively deal with the problem of Russia (and from the OSCE to the Security Council there are many fora to do that)." | "Last chance: The question remains, however: Can the G7 assert its goals? The group has to recognize that this is its last chance to justify its own existence." - Opinion: Schloss Elmau is the last chance for the G7 | Terror financing to top agenda of this week’s G7 meeting - FT

Russia's Putin shut out of G-7 meeting over Ukraine crisis - The Denver Post

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Russia's Putin shut out of G-7 meeting over Ukraine crisis

By Julie Pace
The Associated Press
Posted:   05/31/2015 12:01:00 AM MDTAdd a Comment




A Ukrainian serviceman Saturday fires a grenade launcher during fighting against pro-Russian separatists near Donetsk, Ukraine.
A Ukrainian serviceman Saturday fires a grenade launcher during fighting against pro-Russian separatists near Donetsk, Ukraine. (Genya Savilov, AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Russia's Vladimir Putin won't be on the guest list when President Barack Obama and other world leaders assemble for the G-7 summit in Germany next week, as part of the punishment for alleged Kremlin-supported aggression in Ukraine.
Yet the Russian president remains a central player in international affairs, including the U.S.-led nuclear talks with Iran, even with the pledge by Western leaders to try to isolate Putin while the crisis in Ukraine persists.
This month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in Moscow for talks with Putin, and Secretary of State John Kerry went to Sochi to confer with him. Putin and British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke by telephone in recent days and agreed to resume talks aimed at ending Syria's civil war, where Putin's cooperation is crucial.
U.S. officials say the engagement is limited to areas where Russia and the West have shared interests.
Outreach to Putin on such matters, officials argue, should not be seen as a sign that the West has accepted the status quo in Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists continue to stoke instability.
"It makes sense to cooperate where there is a clear mutual interest as long as you're not being asked to back off matters of principle that matter to the security and well-being of your country and your allies and your friends," said Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday.
Some analysts say the West risks sending mixed signals to Ukraine, where the government has been pushing for more support. Matthew Rojanksy, a Wilson Center expert on the former Soviet states, said there is "growing disappointment" in Ukraine about what officials there see as the West's "pale commitment" to protecting its sovereignty.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine escalated last year when the Kremlin-backed president in Kiev fled amid protests. Pro-Russian separatists moved to take over the strategically important Crimean Peninsula, which Russia later annexed. The West doesn't recognize that move.
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No return to a G8 with Russia - ever | World | DW.DE

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As the G7 leaders prepare to gather at the Elmau mountain retreat on Sunday, Russia's absence is fueling debate. Eckhard Cordes, chairman of the German business association representing companies with significant investments in Russia, recently said that barring Russia from the summit was a missed opportunity: "A G7 meeting with Russia could contribute to solving crises."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier quickly made it clear that current Russian actions in Ukraine preclude Russia from joining the Elmau summit. But they left the door wide open for Russia to come back once it is on better behavior: "I am convinced that we can improve the conditions for global problem-solving if Russia returned to the G8," Steinmeier said recently.
This, however, is an illusion. Reverting to a G8 format with Russia would do nothing to improve the conditions for addressing global problems. The only thing it would do is turn the G8 into the format to deal with the problems Russia itself is causing in Europe's neighborhood. But the G8 was never intended as a format to exclusively deal with the problem of Russia (and from the OSCE to the Security Council there are many fora to do that). As an extension of the G7, it was meant to tackle global issues from financial stability, development policy and health to climate. And on these a format with Russia but without the other big players is pointless.
photo of man

Copyright: GPPI
Thorsten Benner
Falling short
Today, any G-x type of gathering without China and India, the big emerging powers that are home to over one-third of the world's population, falls short of being able to effectively tackle global challenges.
At the same time, reverting to the G8 would destroy the one key function left for the G7: strategy development and policy coordination among like-minded liberal democracies. As Chancellor Merkel put it very well in a recent interview, the grouping has one very precious common trait: "The G7, these are seven democratic nations, united by their advocacy for freedom and human rights." Even if Russia stopped annexing territories or sending its troops into civil wars in neighboring countries, it would fall well short of fitting in with the seven democracies.
Indeed, having Russia at the table as the odd non-liberal member of the club would prevent the G7 from fulfilling its role as a coordination mechanism. To be sure, the times are long gone when a G7 meeting could expect to call the shots and singlehandedly devise rules the whole world would then follow. Given the messier and more competitive nature of today's multilateralism with new fora such as BRICS or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, it is all the more important that liberal democracies coordinate their strategies on key issues of global concern.
The reason for that is not an "Us vs. them" logic of the "West against the rest." Rather, it is the fact the liberal democratic values the current G7 members share stand a much better chance in global governance if the US, Europe and Japan coordinate their strategies and policies.
Lack of coordination
Even without Russia at the table, the G7 has fallen way short of this in recent years. The G7 position on the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is a case in point. Here G7 leaders did not invest in a true strategic coordination on whether, when and with which goals to join this new Chinese multilateral development institution. The result was a messy and bemusing one-by-one joining of the UK, Germany, France and Italy with Japan and the US staying out for the time being. If the G7 focused on continuous policy coordination at the highest level rather than on just preparing flashy summits this may have been avoided. This is where G7 countries should make urgent investments in a more effective club rather than discussing whether Russia should be invited back in if it stops some of its worst actions in the neighborhood.
What to do if - against the current odds - Russia became a liberal democracy? That would be a cause for popping champagne but still no reason to return to the G8 with just Russia. If one thinks about a G7+ democracies format, one would have to add other major democracies such as India, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa. And maybe reduce the EU to a single seat rather than having theodd "old Europe" combo of Italy, Germany, the UK and France at the table all with a separate seat. A G8 with Russia though is an idea whose time has long passed.
Thorsten Benner (@thorstenbenner) is director of the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) in Berlin.
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Why Russia Is Missing Out at the G7

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Russia was arguably the least popular world power in 2014. According to new data from the Gallup World Poll, Russian leadership has a median international approval rating of 22 percent and a 36 percent disapproval rating, the highest of any country. This is cannot be a surprise following the annexation of Crimea, covert intervention in Eastern Ukraine, and assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
As a direct result of international disapproval, Russia’s membership in the G8 was suspended in March 2014, further isolating the country during a time of economic hardship. Negative perceptions of Russian leadership are immediately affecting the country’s ability to provide for its citizens as sanctions begin to bite.
Despite international ire, or perhaps as a result of it, domestic approval of Russian leaders is at an all-time high: 83 percent. It appears that the Russian people are unfazed by the ramifications of Russian action abroad. Not only is Russia not taking part in the G7 conversations in June, but the ruble has lost over half of its value since international sanctions took effect and the European Union has launched an investigation into Gazprom.
In the short term, President Vladimir Putin’s tale of Western aggression can placate the people and inspire a xenophobic nationalism. However, Russia cannot afford this isolation in the long run.
International organizations like the G7 offer countries the opportunity to appeal to their neighbors, and find solutions to the most challenging of international problems. Started in 1975 in the aftermath of the first oil shock, it was a forum to discuss the global economy and international financial problems. It has since been broadened to address foreign, security, and development policy issues. Held in Bavaria at Schloss Elmau this year, member states will also address the 2015 UN conferences, the post-2015 agenda, energy security, marine governance, global health, retail and supply chain standards, and women’s empowerment.
G7 membership is currently being held out as a carrot in seeking to alter Russian behavior. In the absence of the dialogue that comes with participation in this elite group, the West should look for alternate paths to link private sector leaders of both countries. One institution that could play a constructive role is a new business school supported by Russian business leaders. SKOLKOVO, the Moscow School of Management, is an example of a new institution that can foster dialogue and lay the groundwork for further economic cooperation when the political climate improves. The new Dean, Andrei Sharanov, understands the importance of strengthening institutional ties with US and European counterparts at a time like this.
During the Cold War, business leaders were able to play a constructive role, though not a decisive one, in pursuing a thaw. Ideally, with the influence of private sector leaders, Russia will take the necessary steps to rejoin the G7 and set a foundation for the kind of economic policies that will benefit both Russia and the West over the long term. The pivotal question is: will Russia seek to promote an alternate network of economies that seek to rebuff the influence of the United States and the EU?
Germany will continue to play a key role in outcomes of this question. This is not merely as a result of the regular contact between Chancellor Merkel and President Putin, but also as a result of the linkages between these two economies. The Chancellor’s political capital is reflected in the perception of German leadership domestically at an eight year high of 71 percent and a relatively strong international approval rating of 41 percent. However, there are limits to German influence in bridging the divide as reflected by the fact that 66 percent of Russians possess a dim view of Berlin, virtually tied as the highest disapproval rating of German leadership.
The G7 can function without Russian participation. In fact, some would argue that it will now represent a network of countries with more common democratic values. It would not be ideal to readmit Russia based on symbolism or a false hope that its international behavior will be completely altered as a result. The danger is rather that a more isolated Russia, unencumbered by international associations and interests, will become bolder in its defiance of international norms.
Let us hope that Russia earns readmission by changing its actions and intentions. Until then, we must look for alternate vehicles to keep lines of dialogue open to prevent miscalculation and to begin restore trust.
This article originally appeared in Diplomatic Courier’s special print G7 Summit 2015 Edition.
Photo Credit: Meridian International Center.
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Isis and g-7 - Google Search

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General Wesley Clark: "ISIS Got Started Through Funding ...

<a href="http://www.zerohedge.com/.../wesley-clark-" rel="nofollow">www.zerohedge.com/.../wesley-clark-</a>isis-got-started-through...
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Feb 18, 2015 - Which explains, as MiddleEastEye notes, the questions about ISIS' rapid ... The Tornado-G entered series production in 2013. .... It took 7 years when he informed us about what was coming after 9/11 with "7 wars in 5 years".

Terror financing to top agenda of this week’s G7 meeting

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The Group of Seven leading industrialised countries are planning to tighten the squeeze on international terrorist financing by improving cross-border co-ordination on asset freezes and closing loopholes.
The moves, to be approved by a G7 finance ministers’ meeting in the German city of Dresden this week, come in response to the growing use by terrorists of a wider range of financing tools ranging from virtual currencies to trade in ancient artefacts.

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The planned measures come amid evidence of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), the militant Islamist group, raising huge amounts of money to finance its war in Syria and Iraq. A senior German official said the G7 would discuss how countries imposing asset freezes could “react more quickly and so all pull together in one direction.” Ministers would also look at the remaining loopholes in gathering information on financial flows, including virtual currency transactions.
The move follows a push by France and Germany to strengthen the controls on suspected terrorist financing within the EU. Earlier this year, Paris and Berlin urged the European Commission to develop an EU-wide asset freeze system to co-ordinate national enforcement. Michel Sapin, the French finance minister, and Wolfgang Schäuble, his German counterpart, also called for action on controlling flows of gold and precious stones and other anonymous means of payment, intervention in the antiquities trade, and further improvements in the exchange of banking information.
While the Dresden meeting is not a decision-making forum on this issue, Germany is keen to secure broad political backing for the initiative.
Berlin is billing the Dresden event as informal. Unusually, the gathering, which also includes central bank governors and Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund chief, will not produce a final communiqué. German officials said the decision not to publish a statement at the end of the meeting will avoid the long efforts devoted to drafting and redrafting such statements and will allow participants to exchange views in a less structured way.
Other issues on the agenda include further possible moves to improve international tax co-ordination and reduce tax avoidance by multinational groups basing themselves in tax havens. In a novel development, Berlin has invited half a dozen leading economists, headed by Lawrence Summers, the former US Treasury secretary, to join officials in debating boosting global economic growth. Mr Schäuble said in a weekend radio interview that the experts were attending so that “we can think about and find better solutions” to urgent issues.
The Greece crisis is not formally in the programme. Mr Schäuble said it would “certainly be on the agenda” as relevant officials would be present in Dresden, including eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi and Pierre Moscovici, the EU commissioner for economic and monetary affairs. The German finance minister said: “Of course, we will talk about it, but the problem still has to be resolved in Greece.”
Britain’s bid to reform the EU — and its planned exit referendum — is also not on the official agenda. But George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, will play a prominent role in delivering a speech at the opening ceremony in Dresden’s Frauenkirche church. It was destroyed in the second world war by British bombing and rebuilt only after German reunification in 1990.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2015. You may share using our article tools.
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G7 in Schloss Elmau: summit without Russia

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2 June 2015 - 11:51am
Orkhan Sattarov, the head of the European office of Vestnik Kavkaza

Leaders of the G7 countries (that’s the number of members of the informal organization of leading industrial states after the exclusion of Russia in 2014) will gather at the end of the week in Schloss Elmau, Bavaria. More than 18 thousand policemen have come to the beautiful Alpine region to provide security at the event. After mass riots of left radicals and anti-globalists during the opening of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt in March 2015 (more than 150 policemen were injured), the German authorities are seriously afraid of a repetition of similar developments in Bavaria.
However, the protests of “the enemies of capitalism” will hardly disturb the leaders of G7 from discussing more urgent problems of global policy. Moreover, there are a lot of them. Numerous conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and the post-Soviet space have demonstrated the ineffectiveness of the current security system and the inability of the leading actors to solve these problems. The superpowers couldn’t reach a relevant stability or at least a remote prospect of development in the planet’s places where wars are going on. Even though the agenda of the summit has an economic, environmental and social character, the world leaders will obviously use the opportunity to discuss not only private business of women or preservation of seas, but primarily the topical international agenda.
The situation in the international arena is disastrous. The talks on the Iranian nuclear program, which were encouraged by signing agreements in spring in Lausanne, could probably come to a dead-end. The struggle against the militants of Islamic State, which seems to be supported by the US and the coalition of Arab countries, is so ‘successful’ that today ISIS is controlling vast territories and has recently occupied important strategic facilities in Syria and Iraq. The dissolution of Libya, which was caused by killing Gaddafi, led to absolute anarchy and chaos in the country and uncontrollable armed groups. Meanwhile, Yemen ‘exploded’; and under Saudi Arabia’s support, a war against the Houthis was started there. Speaking about Europe itself, the Minsk Agreements on a settlement of the situation in Ukraine are regularly violated; the ceasefire is unstable; while there are no signs of a political resolution in the nearest future. Finally, the old conflicts in the South Caucasus haven’t been solved either. First of all, I mean the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, which regularly shows itself in new bloody clashes.
In this context, many observers have a question whether it is the right step to exclude Russia from “the noble club” of leading industrial powers in such a situation. Paradoxically, representatives of industry stand against the decision. For example, the head of the Eastern Committee of the German Economy, Eckhard Cordes, thinks that the G7 summit in Bavaria is a missed opportunity for a dialogue with Russia. “Today, during the crisis, we need such platforms for cooperation,” he complains. Matthias Platzeck, the head of the German-Russian Forum, thinks that as the Minsk Agreements should be fulfilled within an open partnership with Moscow, Russia should be returned to the format of the G7. Moreover, Matthias Platzeck believes that the situation in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen cannot be settled without Russia, neither can progress in the talks with Iran be achieved without it. Plus, there is the skidding EU program of the Eastern Partnership; after the Riga summit, it actually hung in mid-air, due to the crisis in trust in relations between the West and Russia.
Should the world expect crucial decisions and agreements in Schloss Elmau? The former chancellor of Germany Helmut Schmidt says that his expectations from the summit are rather “limited.” Speaking about the situation in Ukraine, the politician expresses hope that nobody will try “to pour oil on flames” in the very difficult conflict. As for the Russian President, Helmut Schmidt notes that Putin could agree to participate in the summit, if somebody sent him an appropriate invitation. Schmidt understands the logic of the actions of the head of Russia in the international arena: “Putin is a person who has managed to restore Russia from the period of “the wild West” which was taking place under Yeltsin. He inherited the last colonial power; and now he tries to save it,” the former chancellor concluded. However, the current Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel stands radically against a return to the G8 format with the participation of Russia. According to her, Russia’s activities in Ukraine “contradict the values of the G7.” Therefore, “searching for joint approaches toward the greatest foreign political threats” which will take place at the summit in Bavaria, according to the vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, will be held without one of key international players. Whether the G7 activities are effective under such conditions is a rhetorical question.
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Press Digest: ‘Undesirable’ Putin left out as G7 readies for Bavaria summit | Russia Beyond The Headlines

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Leading nations are keeping Russia ‘in quarantine’

“The reunion of Moscow with the G7 is not anticipated,” writes the centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper, saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “the most undesirable person” at the upcoming G7 summit in Bavaria on June 7-8, which will be hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. According to Merkel, Russia's actions in Ukraine are incompatible with it being readopted into the G8 format.
The newspaper explains that the G7 leaders see the world's most elite club as a society that is united by values such as freedom, democracy and rule of law. The West believes that the acceptance of Russia into the club in 1998 was a token of trust, which Russia has now lost after "flagrantly violating the principles of international law."
Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes that the G7 leaders are constantly speaking about toughening sanctions against Russia on the one hand and their readiness to engage in dialogue on the other. It is no surprise that a number of German politicians, including former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, have criticized the decision not to invite Putin to the summit.
According to information from Washington, in Bavaria the leaders will discuss further economic measures that should be taken against Russia. "The elitist club seems united in its desire to keep Russia in quarantine. And this shows that the world's leading politicians have lost their ability to negotiate and find a compromise," concludes Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Merkel: G7 must be ‘engine’ of world

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Writing in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) on Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the role of the G7 group of developed nations, saying it must be ‘the engine of a world worth living in.’

Merkel sought to defend the G7 against accusations that it is a self-interested group for the elite, ahead of the G7 summit being hosted by Germany in Elmau, which kicks off on Sunday.
"Whoever doubts the logic of the summit only need look at current crises to recognize not just the necessity but the duty to work intensively on common solutions," wrote the Chancellor.
Referencing the Ukraine crisis, the rise of Isis in the Middle East and the Ebola epidemic which spread across much of west Africa in 2014, Merkel said that the world still faced crises on a global scale which needed to be tackled by the seven-member organisation.
She went on to say that the purpose of the G7 is not only to solve global crises, but also that it existed to find a path towards a more sustainable economic future.
Merkel added that such a goal could only be achieved with "strengthened international trade on the basis of high social and ecological standards" - a thinly veiled reference to the controversial proposed free trade agreement between the EU and the US, TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership).
The agenda of the Elmau summit would focus on two central goals, she said.
“The first is to set out new targets for sustainable development. The G7 should commit itself to wiping out world hunger and extreme poverty by 2030. Only when we have been able to achieve this can other development goals have a chance of success.
“The second great task is global warming. With the upcoming conference in Paris in December, we have the first chance in years to reach an agreement on emissions to which all nations are bound. Through this, we can come a bit closer to ensuring that we keep global temperature rises under two degrees,” she wrote.
She argued that the developed nations needed to stick to the agreements made at the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009, specifically in regards to the commitment to provide $100 billion to developing lands each year from 2020 onwards for protection against climate change.
Germany will double its commitment between now and 2020, the Chancellor confirmed.
Regarding epidemics that have the potential to spread across borders, the Chancellor said that there is a need to learn from the Ebola epidemic. She said that they would be consulting with people from the countries affected by Ebola so that they could develop strategies to better prepare for future outbreaks.
She also mooted the setting up of a global task force to fight highly contagious viruses. She said that while it was a middle-term goal "we should fix our sights on it now".
Merkel mentioned improving working conditions along the global production chain and facilitating access to education for women in the developing world as subjects up for discussion at the summit.
"To realize all these goals, we need many more partners. I’m convinced that the G7 can be the engine for a world worth living in, and that it must be that," Merkel concluded.
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Angela Merkel to meet with President Barack Obama on Sunday before G7 summit starts

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BERLIN: German Chancellor 
Angela Merkel
 will hold bilateral talks with US President 
Barack Obama
on Sunday morning before the start of a 
Group of Seven
 ( 
G7
) summit in Bavaria, a senior German official who requested anonymity said on Thursday. 
The official said the two leaders would meet in the town of 
Kruen
, near the Elmau palace where the summit is being held.

US army bans soldiers from area of G7 summit

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The town is also home to a US army garrison.
“The restrictions have been set in response to the planned protest at the upcoming annual G7 Summit,” the US Army said in an official statement.
“Officials say there is a possibility that violence may be used for retaliation and are expecting thousands of protestors, which will include anti-globalisation and other activists.”
Army personnel were ordered to avoid travelling to Munich and Garmisch-Patenkirchen, and their family members were “highly encouraged” to avoid the area.
In a separate advisory note, commanders warned soldiers based in Garmisch barracks during the summit to keep a low profile.
“Avoid wearing a military uniform in public view to avoid any confrontations. Avoid unnecessary stops. Avoid exiting your vehicle while in uniform,” the notice said.
“Do not wear distinctly military items or typically U.S. items, such as cowboy apparel or American logo T-shirts. Wear clothes that cover up visible U.S. and/or military affiliated tattoos.”
Earlier this year anti-capitalist protests against the openning of the new European Central Bank in Frankfurt turned violent.
Police used water cannon and tear gas against protestors who threw stones and fireworks, broke windows and set cars on fire.
More than 100 people were reported injured, including 88 police officers and two firefighters.
The Frankfurt fire department said its crews had come under attack.

Obama to Urge Extending Anti-Russia Sanctions at G7 Meeting / Sputnik International

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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — US President Barack Obama will raise the question of prolonging sanctions against Russia during the Group of Seven’s (G7) meeting on June7-8 in Schloss Elmau, Germany, White House Senior Director for European affairs Charles Kupchan told reporters on Thursday.
“The President [Obama] will be making the case to his European colleagues that the European Union should move ahead and extend sanctions when they end,” Kupchan said.
In 2014, the United States, the European Union and some of their allies imposed economic sanctions on Moscow over alleged meddling into the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations and calls on the diplomatic resolution of the crisis.
US Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes in the same discussion explained that the sanctions take time to have economic effect, and argued that this is the reason why it is important that they are maintained.
“So that they [sanctions] are not just seen as one time punishment…but rather we need to maintain the pressure and show that there can be no cracks in the transatlantic unity,” he added.
During the meeting in Germany, G7 members will also underscore the importance of implementation of the Minsk agreements to settle the conflict in Ukraine, according to the White House officials.
In February 2015, Representatives of the Ukrainian government and the two breakaway republics in Minsk signed the agreements that stipulate a ceasefire, heavy artillery withdrawal, prisoner exchange and constitutional reforms in the country.
Kupchan said the United States has always pushed for the diplomatic solution of the Ukrainian crisis. “I do not see any change in policy on Ukraine,” he added.
The G7 comprises Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, the United States and Canada. Russia’s participation in the group’s meetings was suspended in March 2014.

Obama Confronts Test of Soft Power Approach in Summit With G-7

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President Barack Obama’s reliance on soft power and engagement as his principle foreign policy tools faces a test, as he joins a summit of world leaders in Germany this weekend with multiple unfolding international crises.
Leaders of the Group of Seven nations gather at the exclusive Schloss Elmau resort, at the foot of the Bavarian Alps, with an agenda of worries: Russia’s backing of Ukraine separatists, the spread of Islamic State, Chinese saber-rattling in the Pacific, Greece’s attempt to reach a deal with its creditors and negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program.
Mixed in will be discussions on concluding a global climate agreement and free-trade deals involving the European Union and Asia-Pacific nations, two goals Obama hopes to achieve before he leaves office.
“This is a consequential spring, summer and autumn for the president,” said R. Nicholas Burns, a former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and now a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “His legacy issues are on the line and he continues to face substantial challenges to the U.S. national security in the Middle East, Russia and China.”
During his more than six years as U.S. president, Obama has frequently argued that alliances, collective action, and international institutions can address crises more effectively than brute military strength. Recent world events have shown the limits of that approach.
The meeting among leaders from the U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, France, Italy and Japan will be the second since the group booted out Russia over its actions in Ukraine. Yet that snub and the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the U.S. and EU have done little to force Russian President Vladimir Putin to bend.
Russia’s continued incursion into Ukraine will be “the 800-pound gorilla” overshadowing all other aspects of the summit’s agenda, said Julianne Smith, the former deputy national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.
Reports Wednesday that separatist rebels had begun their most significant offensive in months only deepened concern that a fragile cease-fire agreement with Moscow will not hold.
European countries meanwhile face increasing domestic pressure to loosen the penalties against Russia.
In the host country of Germany, the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, a consortium of about 200 of the country’s leading companies, called this week for Russia to be re-admitted to the G-7. Southern European countries including Spain, Greece and Cyprus have complained about the sanctions’ impact on their agriculture and tourism industries. Sanctions come up for reauthorization later this month at a meeting of the European Council.
Leaders also are grappling with the tenacious threat posed by Islamic State. Its recent victories have heightened concern across Europe, home for many of the group’s foreign fighters, as well as in Japan after the militants beheaded Japanese journalist Kenji Goto earlier this year.
Obama’s strategy, which relies on local and regional troops bolstered by air power and equipment, has drawn “criticism from all quarters,” said Richard Fontaine, the president of the Center for a New American Security, a Washington policy research organization.
As the outcomes of Obama’s foreign policy become clear in the next few months, there will be ripples across the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, already under way. As many as 15 Republicans are vying to succeed Obama along with four Democrats, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The economy has receded as a U.S. domestic political issue as a recovery has taken hold in the country, even if fitful and uneven. Republican candidates are instead taking aim at Obama’s approach to foreign affairs.
“When America doesn’t lead, bad people with bad intentions lead,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a prospective candidate for the Republican nomination, said in Detroit in March. “We need a leader in the White House.”
Walter Russell Mead, a professor of foreign affairs at Bard College, said Obama’s success or failure in dealing with the global challenges as his term winds down will affect the mood of the voting public and how candidates react.
While there are exceptions, including Republican Senator Rand Paul and Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic contender, most of the candidates “stand for a more assertive use of U.S. power than President Obama has,” Mead said.
“You now have a lot of the public perceiving real threats from overseas,” he said. “When you have that happen, political leaders feel the need to show themselves to be effective protectors of national security.”
The president’s lowest approval numbers are focused on foreign policy questions, Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, a political risk research and consulting firm in Washington, said in a phone interview. Just 32 percent approve of the president’s handling of Islamic State, according to a CNN/ORC poll released Wednesday.
That, Bremmer says, invites Republicans to use international affairs as an entryway for attacks on the administration.
“Foreign policy is clearly becoming the big issue of 2016,” he said.
Many of the current crises will come to a head in the coming weeks and months. By the end of June, agreements are due on negotiations to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and on renewing sanctions against Russia. The campaign against Islamic State, negotiations to conclude a multination trade pact in the Asia-Pacific region, climate talks and the U.S. relationship with China also will all demand attention between now and the next election.
For the president, the G-7 meeting is one of his last, best chances to sell world leaders on his approach. His legacy depends, in part, on the outcome.
“This is the crucial time where we’re going to get some answers on whether he succeeds or does not succeed,” Burns said.
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US-German relations need a reboot – POLITICO

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Alex Wong/Getty

US-German relations need a reboot

Berlin is becoming the ally that Washington wants it to be.
Updated
When President Obama travels to Germany this weekend to meet with his G-7 counterparts, he’ll be hosted by the leader who is arguably his closest global partner, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Yet while relations at the highest levels have never been stronger, many Germans believe their relationship with the United States is as contentious as ever and are questioning the value of close security cooperation.
This paradox was the main topic of discussion among a diverse group of leaders on a task force on the future of German-American relations convened by the German Marshall Fund (GMF). Getting US-German ties back on solid ground should be a high priority for Obama’s remaining time in office. And it will remain a challenge for the next President, as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who willannounce he is entering the race for the presidency on June 15, will certainly assert when he visits Germany just days after Obama departs.
The Snowden revelations were the spark that ignited the current firestorm. Germans remain apoplectic over reports about US intelligence operations on German soil, especially the monitoring of Merkel’s cell phone, as well as the German intelligence services’ close cooperation with the NSA. This lit a large stack of kindling, with many Germans already anxious about the dominance of US technology companies like Google, the implications of American-promoted trade deals, and the sense that they are on the short-end of the US strategic shift to Asia.
Germans discuss these concerns with an abundance of emotion, complaining of betrayal and a lack of trust. Seven years ago, more than 200,000 Germans swooned at Obama’s appearance in Berlin’s Tiergarten, but recent polls show that Obama’s German approval ratings on foreign policy and overall favorability are plummeting.
From a US perspective, the intensity of Germany’s anxieties is puzzling because their concerns are not unique. Americans also worry about data collection and privacy, as the recent debate in Congress about extending the Patriot Act makes clear. And trade remains a deeply divisive issue, although the US debate has focused more on trade with Asia rather than with Europe.
But what makes the current drama so curious is that in many ways, Berlin is becoming the ally that Washington wants it to be. Developing strong partners is at the core of Obama’s foreign policy. In recent years, Germany has asserted its global role more forcefully, especially on matters of security and defense. We see this with Chancellor Merkel’s leadership on Ukraine and Russia, where she has remained far stronger than many predicted. We see this in terms of military engagement — Germany remains a “Framework Nation” in Afghanistan with 850 troops, is actively involved in NATO reassurance efforts in Eastern Europe, and is supplying lethal assistance to the Iraqi Kurds — and in Berlin’s willingness to increase defense spending.
While there is an intense intellectual debate in Germany about its leadership role, the country is still coming to terms with playing a larger, more global role and assuming greater foreign policy responsibility. Americans may in fact be more eager for Germany to lead than many Germans are.
The two countries are looking at the same strategic picture. They share concerns about cyber threats, the future of Russia and Eastern Europe, Asia’s rise in power, turmoil in the Middle East, as well as global challenges like climate change and the future of the liberal, rules-based order, and how democracies balance privacy and transparency with security issues. A decade ago Robert Kagan’s argument that “Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus” dominated the transatlantic debate. Today, the US and Germany are living on the same planet.
The state of the US-German relationship is better than it sounds. We have our share of drama and turmoil. That’s not new — recall the intense debate about the deployment of Pershing missiles in the early ’80s; the tensions over Reagan’s visit to Bitburg Cemetery in 1985; debates over the Balkan crises in the ’90s; and of course Iraq. To put today’s opinion polls in perspective, let’s keep in mind that not so long ago, things were far worse. In 2007, 86 percent of Germans disapproved of President George W. Bush’s handling of foreign policy, and 59 percent did not want the US to play a leading role in world affairs.
A decade ago, the world’s crises sowed deep divisions between Germany and the US. The relationship was defined by mutual recriminations and suspicions. In 2003, Angela Merkel, then still virtually unknown in the US, nearly undermined her political career by writing an article for theWashington Post arguing that then-German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder didn’t speak for all Germans when he criticized the Iraq war. Today’s crises — Ukraine and Russia, ISIS, China’s rise — are unifying us.
This is not to minimize existing differences or to suggest that there’s no work left to do. The task force discussions made clear that we cannot take this relationship for granted, or rest on gauzy nostalgia for the days when the Marshall Plan came to the rescue and hundreds of thousands of American servicemen served in Germany. We need to restructure the relationship for the future — defining it not by the narcissism of small differences, but by common values and a shared strategic outlook.
Derek Chollet is Counselor at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. He previously served the Obama Administration at the White House, State Department and Pentagon, most recently as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.
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In Germany, a tale of two summits

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G7 opponents settle in a tent camp near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, southern Germany, on June 3, ahead of the G7 economic summit. Photo by Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters
G7 opponents settle in a tent camp near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, southern Germany, on June 3, ahead of the G7 economic summit. Photo by Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters
BERLIN, Germany — This weekend President Barack Obama will be meeting in a Bavarian castle with six of his fellow leaders from Europe, Canada and Japan at the Group of Seven (G7) summit, a highly choreographed annual event that produces reams of communiques and press conferences but rarely any memorable results.
On Monday night, German Chancellor Angela Merkel hurriedly and secretly summoned to Berlin the heads of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Union’s executive commission to try to resolve Europe’s most immediate crisis — the rolling deadlines over how and whether to bail Greece out of its massive debts.
The contrast between the two summits offers the starkest example yet of how leadership and authority on European issues is flowing from Washington to Berlin and into the hands of a German chancellor and government who insist with conviction that this role is being thrust upon them.
Far more by accident than design, Germany has become the reluctant leader and key decision maker on critical issues from Ukraine to the fate of the European Union’s embattled common currency, the euro. And in a far cry from the Cold War era when the United States and its presidents dominated much of Europe’s destiny, President Obama and his administration are distant players in many European issues now.
The rapid changes that have hit Europe in the last two decades are prominently on display and under constant discussion in Berlin, which over 144 years has gone from the capital of a newly united Germany to a bombed out flashpoint of Cold War confrontation between the U.S. and Soviet Union to a thriving and dynamic capital of a reunified Germany where hipsters, techies and night clubbers share turf amid new and renovated buildings with politicians, diplomats, think tankers and lobbyists.
Observing the first group is to realize how quickly a new generation has grown up with no memories of the Cold War that shaped a divided Germany and Berlin from the fall of the Nazi regime
in 1945 to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. To spend time in meetings and conferences with the second group is to be constantly reminded that the past decade has brought on bundles of issues, any one of which could preoccupy a government.
For years after the end of the Cold War and demise of the Soviet Union, politicians and citizens alike in the now 28-member European Union talked of Europe as an island of peace and stability which much of the rest of the world wanted to emulate. Leadership was shared by a condominium of France and Germany, joined on many issues by Great Britain. But for the last five years, Britain has often turned its back to the EU and is now debating whether to leave it altogether. France has become mired in economic and political stasis.
That leaves Merkel as the last woman left standing facing an agenda that former German Ambassador to Washington Wolfgang Ischinger described as overwhelming. It can be divided into three baskets: the crisis of the Euro currency including a possible Greek exit in bankruptcy and slow to non-existent growth in most EU countries except Germany; a revanchist Russia, whose president Vladimir Putin is determined to overthrow the post-Cold War order, starting in Ukraine; and the crisis in the Mediterranean wrapping in refugees, terrorism, Middle East politics and the toxic domestic issue of immigration. Added now is the distraction of dealing with British Prime Minister David Cameron’s demands for new terms for keeping the UK inside the European Union.
As President Obama has realized in his sometimes prickly relationship with Merkel, she has ended up holding a lot of the cards and that her thumbs up or down can decide how issues
are resolved across Europe. And much of that power has come from both her innate caution and ability to hold the 28 EU nations together, whether dealing with the Greek debt issues or keeping sanctions on Russia since it seized Crimea, even as powerful German and other European businesses with stakes in that country kicked and screamed in protest.
And Merkel, a Russian speaker raised in the former East Germany has become the West’s principal interlocutor on Ukraine with Putin, a fluent German speaker from his KGB days in Dresden. Some German and European diplomats privately express concern that Merkel and her entourage have not more actively engaged the U.S. and EU in Ukraine diplomacy, but Merkel’s opposition to providing lethal weapons to the Kiev government helped give political cover to President Obama as he resisted domestic pressures on the arms issue.
But on one issue that has roiled relations between Germany and the U.S., President Obama is catching a break as he heads to the G7 meeting at a Bavarian schloss. Revelations that the German intelligence agency had worked with the NSA in snooping on Europeans had reignited the spying scandals in German media. But in the past week, the FIFA indictments have blown that story off front pages and newscasts in this soccer obsessed country, the winner of four and host of two World Cups.
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Merkel to meet with Obama on Sunday before G7 summit starts

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World | Thu Jun 4, 2015 4:25am EDT
BERLIN
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks as she holds a joint news conference with U.S. President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House in Washington February 9, 2015.   REUTERS/Gary Cameron
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks as she holds a joint news conference with U.S. President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House in Washington February 9, 2015.
Reuters/Gary Cameron

BERLIN German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold bilateral talks with U.S. President Barack Obamaon Sunday morning before the start of a Group of Seven (G7) summit in Bavaria, a senior German official who requested anonymity said on Thursday.

The official said the two leaders would meet in the town of Kruen, near the Elmau palace where the summit is being held.

(Reporting by Noah Barkin; Editing by Madeline Chambers)
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Obama to meet Iraqi prime minister at G7

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President Obama will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at this weekend’s Group of Seven (G7) summit in Germany amid tensions over the administration’s strategy in fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
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It will be Obama and Abadi’s first face-to-face meeting since the city of Ramadi fell to ISIS militants last month, a major blow for the international coalition’s campaign against the group.
The two leaders will discuss “the situation on the ground and our efforts to support the Iraqi security forces,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters Thursday.
The White House has publicly expressed confidence in Abadi’s leadership, but there have been signs of a strained relationship since ISIS took control of the Sunni stronghold of Ramadi.
Abadi called for greater international support for Iraqi ground forces during a meeting of coalition partners in Paris this week.
“This is a failure on the part of the world,” Abadi told reporters. “There is a lot of talk of support for Iraq. There is very little on the ground.”
ISIS has also made recent gains in Syria, taking the ancient city of Palmyra and advancing on Aleppo.
Rhodes said there are no plans to announce any shift in strategy. He expressed confidence in the existing plan to fight the group, which includes a new offensive in Anbar Province, where Ramadi is located.
There are approximately 3,000 U.S. troops training and equipping Iraqi forces, but they do not serve in combat roles.
In addition, the government has sent 2,000 anti-tank missiles to Iraq to help combat ISIS’s use of car bombs placed inside armored vehicles. The administration has also pledged to speed up other weapons shipments.
Last month, Iraqi officials were angered when Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Iraqi troops who were routed in Ramadi showed “no will to fight.” That prompted Vice President Biden to smooth over tensions and pledge support for the Iraqi forces in a phone call with Abadi. 
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Opinion: Schloss Elmau is the last chance for the G7 | Germany | DW.DE

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Genoa, July 20, 2001: Silvio Berlusconi, then the Italian prime minister, had invited the Group of Eight to the venerable port city, but tens of thousands of demonstrators also came to protest the summit. They saw the G8 as the source of all evil - a stronghold of neoliberalism responsible for the world's injustices.
G8 Genoa 2001
A police officer killed one of the protesters in Genoa
On that July 20, a bullet fired by the 20-year-old carabiniere Mario Placanica killed 23-year-old protester Carlo Giuliani. The summit went on nonetheless, but political themes were overshadowed by the killing. It was planned that future summits would be held in more remote areas. Genoa was the first nail in the G8's coffin.
A few years later, the collapse of Lehmann Brothers rocked financial markets. The world stared into the abyss, and the G8 soon realized that they could not solve the problem alone. They recalled the G20, which until then had only acted as a forum for finance ministers, and appointed it as a crisis management task force. In Washington, DC, in 2008 heads of state and government sat down together for the first time in 2008.
As a result, the G8 lost relevance. In the summer of 2010, a sort of double summit was attempted in Canada - first the G8 met, then the G20. Yet, that failed to save the G8 as well. It was determined that global economics would be debated within the G20 from then on, and the G8 rebranded itself as a foreign policy forum. However, its dynamism was increasingly bogged down by the global finical crisis. There was not much left to say, individual interests were simply too disparate.
Fighting inequality
The G8 sensed a new chance for themselves, and decided to attempt to resolve the world's problems as a "community of shared values." One of these massive problems was global wealth inequality. Final documents from a number of G7 and G8 summits repeatedly contained statements on fighting poverty, increasing the taxation of capital, and fighting protectionism as well as the dubious tax practices of large international corporations.
Generally, if there were any results at all, they tended to be nominal at best. This is still especially obvious in regard to wealth distribution. This is glaringly illustrated by the fact that the wealth of the 80 richest people in the world has risen from $1.3 trillion to $1.9 trillion (1.7 trillion euros) over the last four years - that means since the financial collapse! According to a study by the British aid organization Oxfam, this club of the super rich possesses as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity - some 3.5 billion people. The International Labor Organization has presented comparable numbers. Similarly, they have found that an average of roughly 40 percent of global wealth belongs to the richest 10 percent of the population. In comparison, the poorest 10 percent of the population possess only 2 percent of global wealth. This disparity is not limited to "north-south" comparisons, or those between rich and poor countries. This can easily be seen by looking at the United States. There, bosses of companies listed on the S&P 500 earn 250 times what the average worker does. At the same time, more that 45 million Americans live on food stamps.
Leaders of the seven member states that make up the group now that Russia has been thrown outknow all of this. But real plans for reigning in rampant capitalism are nowhere to be seen. The illustrious group's best chance to finally do something will certainly be the upcoming UN special summit in New York this September, where goals for sustainable development beyond 2015 will be adopted. Ahead of the UN meeting, the summit in Elmau is an opportunity for the G7 members to commit to their own goals for ending extreme poverty throughout the world by 2030.
Anti-G7 Protests
Protesters are out in Munich, mocking the world leaders they say care more for the rich
They must focus more than they have so far on crafting effective tax policy measures as the companies that avoid taxes are mainly headquartered in G7 countries. And they must make sure that ecological, social and labor standards are adhered to along the entirety of the production and delivery chain - not just voluntarily: bindingly. Thus, the German G7 presidency has set the right priorities. But the chancellor has to be more than a good host at Schloss Elmau; she has to demonstrate that Germany is truly ready to take on responsibility. She has to show that she is ready to lead.
Last chance
The question remains, however: Can the G7 assert its goals? The group has to recognize that this is its last chance to justify its own existence. Only when the seven members are able to agree on climate change goals and social standards, and when they have gotten corporations to comply with these, will they have earned the label "community of shared values."
That is the only way to defuse the ticking time bomb of social inequality. The multibillionaire Paul Tudor Jones - a trader and hedge fund manager, of course - summed up the problem quite a while ago. Jones said that we were in the midst of a disastrous market mania, the worst that he'd ever experienced. And that the gulf between the 1 percent and the rest of the world could not go on for long. His take: "It will end in revolution, higher taxes or war."
That could be a maxim for the G7 - if not, it may well be chiseled onto the group's tombstone.
Join the discussion - leave a comment below.
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Obama to press EU on Russia sanctions, meet Abadi at G7

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World | Thu Jun 4, 2015 12:47pm EDT
WASHINGTON
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a town hall meeting with Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Fellows (YSEALI) at the White House in Washington June 1, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a town hall meeting with Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Fellows (YSEALI) at the White House in Washington June 1, 2015.
Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON U.S. President Barack Obama will urge European Union leaders to maintain sanctions against Russia over its aggression in Ukraine at the upcoming G7 meeting, where he will also hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, U.S. officials said.

Obama arrives in Germany on Sunday for the summit of leaders from the world's top industrial nations.

He will also hold bilateral meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, the officials told reporters in a conference call.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Julia Edwards)
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G-7 summit expected to lead to fresh admonishment of Russia

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Western leaders at their weekend summit in Germany are expected to further condemn, but not more strictly punish Russia for its suspected role in the escalating violence in Ukraine.
Ukraine is pleading for a response from the Group of 7 leaders meeting Sunday and Monday in the Bavarian Alps, a year after the world's largest industrialized democracies booted Russian President Vladimir Putin from their ranks in protest over the crisis that has killed more than 6,400 people.
Even now, Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists are engaging in their most violent battle in months, despite economic penalties against Moscow and a 4-month-old cease-fire agreement.
"I don't think we can kid ourselves that the policy and right now the actions on the ground are producing the results we want," said Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
She said European leaders will assess President Barack Obama's next steps as they face a decision this summer about prolonging their sanctions against Vladimir Putin's government.
"Russia has not changed its behavior," she said. "If anything, President Putin, I think, is doubling down on multiple fronts, and the cohesiveness feels like it's not there. People don't know what's next, how are we going to continue on."
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Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, center, surrounded by the US and Ukrainian soldiers  …
Defense Secretary Ash Carter has summoned American defense and diplomatic officials for meetings Friday in Germany on countering Russia's military operations in Ukraine and assessing the effectiveness of the sanctions and U.S.-backed military operations.
Carter wants advice on whether the U.S. needs to expand military exercises or step up assistance to other countries in the region worried about the threat to them. A senior U.S. official traveling with Carter provided details about the meetings on condition of anonymity but was not authorized to publicly discuss details about the gathering.
At the G-7 meeting at the Schloss Elmau, a one-time artist retreat turned luxury spa, Obama will join the leaders of Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Japan. The prime ministers of Canada and Japan planned to visit Ukraine on their way to Germany.
Questions persistent within the Obama administration about the direction of U.S. policy toward Ukraine.
Carter and others suggest the U.S. should consider providing lethal weapons to Ukraine. But unless there's a significant escalation of the crisis, the U.S. and European Union appear to have little appetite for tougher penalties against Russia.
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Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko greets lawmakers prior to his annual address to the Parliam …
Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the White House's National Security Council, said leaders would focus on how to best support the cease-fire deal. That would mean "ensuring that sanctions will remain in place until Russia fully implements these agreements" and considering "options for intensifying the costs in the event of further aggression by Russia and the separatists."
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is urging G-7 leaders to condemn Russia after this week's renewed violence. "The international community must come up with a correct and appropriate response to Russian aggression," Yatsenyuk said.
Putting in place a cease-fire sealed in Belarus in February has proved difficult.
The armistice required both sides to pull back heavy weapons from the front line, but international observers regularly note violations across the board. Regular reports of casualties among government and separatist fighters have continued. But deaths among noncombatants had almost ceased until recent days, in an indication that the warring sides are again increasingly resorting to indiscriminate shelling.
The State Department said it was disturbed by the unrest and said any rebel attempts to seize Ukrainian territory would have costs for Russia, which it accuses of guiding the separatists.
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West 'must hike forces over Russia'