TRANSCRIPT: Remarks by President Obama in Press Conference after G7 Summit (excerpts)
(The White House – Office of the Press Secretary – Elmau Briefing Center, Krün, Germany, June 8, 2015)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: With respect to security, the G7 remains strongly united in support for Ukraine. We’ll continue to provide economic support and technical assistance that Ukraine needs as it moves ahead on critical reforms to transform its economy and strengthen its democracy. As we’ve seen again in recent days, Russian forces continue to operate in eastern Ukraine, violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is now the second year in a row that the G7 has met without Russia — another example of Russia’s isolation — and every member of the G7 continues to maintain sanctions on Russia for its aggression against Ukraine.
Now, it’s important to recognize the Russian economy has been seriously weakened. The ruble and foreign investment are down; Inflation is up. The Russian central bank has lost more than $150 billion in reserves. Russian banks and firms are virtually locked out of the international markets. Russian energy companies are struggling to import the services and technologies they need for complex energy projects. Russian defense firms have been cut off from key technologies. Russia is in deep recession. So Russia’s actions in Ukraine are hurting Russia and hurting the Russian people.
Here at the G7, we agreed that even as we will continue to seek a diplomatic solution, sanctions against Russia will remain in place so long as Russia continues to violate its obligations under the Minsk agreements. Our European partners reaffirmed that they will maintain sanctions on Russia until the Minsk agreements are fully implemented, which means extending the EU’s existing sectoral sanctions beyond July. And the G7 is making it clear that, if necessary, we stand ready to impose additional, significant sanctions against Russia….
Q You mentioned that the U.S. and its European allies have reached a consensus on extending the sanctions against Russia. Is there a consensus, though, about what specifically the next step should be if Russia continues to violate the Minsk agreement? And also, can you deter Russian aggression in other parts of Eastern Europe without a permanent U.S. troop presence?…
PRESIDENT OBAMA: On Ukraine and Russia and Minsk, there is strong consensus that we need to keep pushing Russia to abide by the terms of the Minsk agreement; we need to continue to support and encourage Ukraine to meet its obligations under Minsk — that until that’s completed, sanctions remain in place.
There was discussion about additional steps that we might need to take if Russia, working through separatists, doubled down on aggression inside of Ukraine. Those discussions are taking place at a technical level, not yet at a political level — because I think the first goal here going into a European Council meeting that’s coming up is just rolling over the existing sanctions. But I think at a technical level, we want to be prepared.
Our hope is, is that we don’t have to take additional steps because the Minsk agreement is met. And I want to give enormous credit to Chancellor Merkel, along with President Hollande, who have shown extraordinary stick-to-itiveness and patience in trying to get that done.
Ultimately, this is going to be an issue for Mr. Putin. He’s got to make a decision: Does he continue to wreck his country’s economy and continue Russia’s isolation in pursuit of a wrong-headed desire to re-create the glories of the Soviet empire? Or does he recognize that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries?
And as I mentioned earlier, the costs that the Russian people are bearing are severe. That’s being felt. It may not always be understood why they’re suffering, because of state media inside of Russia and propaganda coming out of state media in Russia and to Russian speakers. But the truth of the matter is, is that the Russian people would greatly benefit. And, ironically, one of the rationales that Mr. Putin provided for his incursions into Ukraine was to protect Russian speakers there. Well, Russian speakers inside of Ukraine are precisely the ones who are bearing the brunt of the fighting. Their economy has collapsed. Their lives are disordered. Many of them are displaced. Their homes may have been destroyed. They’re suffering. And the best way for them to stop suffering is if the Minsk agreement is fully implemented….
[featured image is file photo from past occasion]