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Vladimir Putin wants to be rival to the West, not a partner, Harper says

BERLIN — Prime Minister Stephen Harper and German Chancellor Angela Merkel say they are united in their view that Russia has grossly violated Ukrainian sovereignty by annexing the Crimean peninsula.

Following a meeting Thursday between the two G7 leaders, Harper also opined that chances are slim that Russian President Vladimir Putin could ever be welcomed back to the G8.

The G7 nations — the U.S., Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Japan — effectively booted Russia from the G8 earlier this week over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula following a pro-Western uprising.

“He has not desired to be a partner, he’s desired to be a rival, and that’s just the reality that we have to come to terms with,” Harper told a news conference following his meeting with Merkel.

“I don’t see any way of a return for Mr. Putin to the table unless Russia fundamentally changes its course.”

In advance of next week’s NATO meeting in Brussels on the crisis in eastern Europe, Harper said: “No one is seeking a military escalation.”

But at the same time, Russian aggression “has the attention” of NATO, particularly NATO partners in eastern Europe, Harper added.

Merkel, asked how much pain Germany was willing to endure as a result of the economic sanctions against Russia, said she was unconcerned.

“I am quite relaxed, let’s put it that way.”

Merkel, meantime, said if Russia doesn’t de-escalate the situation, it will face further sanctions from the international community. She added that she hopes Putin makes the “right decisions” given his actions are harming the European economy as well as Russia’s.

Harper and Merkel, the two most senior members of the G7, sat down for an hour at the Chancellery in Berlin overlooking the historic Reichstag building. They exchanged kisses on the cheek upon meeting in an outdoor courtyard, then chatted warmly as they entered the building.

While the two leaders discussed the Canadian-German trade relationship, their talks focused on the ominous events playing out in Ukraine.

“We are united in our view that President Putin’s actions are a clear and unacceptable violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Harper said.

“President Putin’s actions are also in contravention of Russia’s obligations under the UN Charter and its agreement to respect Ukraine’s borders.”

Merkel was asked if Germany is interested in importing Canadian energy to end its dependency on Russian natural gas. The chancellor noted that Germany gets 35 per cent of its energy from Russia.

But she added that as Europe looks to diversify, Canada lacks the infrastructure to get its energy overseas. That means Canadian energy imports are a long-term project for Germany, Merkel said.

A senior European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said Wednesday there are currently determined efforts under way in Europe to find alternatives to Russian natural gas.

 
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