Germany Floats Non-Military Pressure on Russia Over Syria Attack

Germany’s foreign minister said more pressure should be applied on Russia over its support for President Bashar Al-Assad, hinting at possible non-military measures alongside threatened allied strikes on Syria.
As the U.S. and its allies edge toward punitive measures for a chemical weapons attack they blame on Assad, a parallel track is emerging that could possibly include sanctions against Assad’s backers. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas portrayed Russia’s veto of 12 resolutions in the United Nations Security Council as evidence that the Kremlin is prolonging the war in Syria.
Heiko Maas
Photographer: Steffi Loos/Getty Images
“We can’t go on like this,” Maas told reporters at the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels on Friday. “So we’re keeping up the political pressure on Russia and we’d like to increase it further. Getting Russia to change its behavior is a condition for solving the Syria conflict.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Germany won’t join military strikes against Assad, while leaving non-military options open. Merkel, who has been a key force behind economic sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, discussed Syria in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday.
“We will do everything we can to maintain diplomatic and political pressure on Russia,” Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s chief spokesman, told reporters Friday. “This also has been a topic in the talks we’ve had with Putin.”
When President Donald Trump hit Syria last year, the targeted attack was strictly military -- 59 Tomahawk missiles. After the latest chemical weapons attack, the timing of any action is uncertain. Before meeting his advisers on Thursday, Trump said “we’re looking very very seriously, very closely” at the Syria situation.