By Esra Kaymak Avci
WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. is optimistic Europe will renew sanctions against Russia during a European Council meeting at the end of the month, an assistant secretary of state said Tuesday.
"We are cautiously optimistic that the EU countries will again roll over sanctions at the end of June," Victoria Nuland told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing regarding Russia.
"Because they see what we see, namely that Minsk [agreement] is far from being implemented in any of its components."
She also said the U.S. would use an upcoming NATO summit in July in Warsaw, Poland, to address the alliance’s ability to deter Russia in the context of alleged arms control treaty violations.
"We are also working intensively, and this is part of our package for the Warsaw Summit, to assure that NATO’s own deterrent, including its nuclear deterrent is updated and strong," she said.
According to Nuland, the U.S. is also working with its allies to "bring pressure to bear on Russia with regard to the violations."
She added that NATO members needed to do a lot more to push Russia and the separatists to end the violence to allow the Minsk agreement be fully implemented.
Regarding Russia’s annex of Crimea, Nuland said the U.S. and EU would maintain sanctions "until Crimea is returned rightfully to Ukraine."
Germany, together with France, have been playing the role of mediator in resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine since fighting broke out in April 2014.
The warring parties agreed last year in Minsk on a comprehensive cease-fire deal but the agreement has had little effect on the conflict. The escalation of fights last month led to concerns on the future of the Minsk cease-fire. More than 9,300 people have been killed in the last two years in eastern Ukraine, according to the UN.
Testifying before the committee as well, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, Michael Carpenter, admitted that Russia is in violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty requirements. "We are looking at this in a broader context of Russia's aggressive behavior," he said.
Russia is considered to have violated the 1987 INF treaty, which prohibits the development, testing, or fielding of ground-based cruise missiles with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles.
Russia contends that it did not violate the treaty and claims that U.S.' Europe-based missile defense system violates it.