US And UK United In Maintaining Strong Sanctions On Russia; EU Commissioner Wants Russia To Be 'Strategic Partner'

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An employee counts Russian ruble banknotes at a private company's office in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, December 17, 2014.
An employee counts Russian ruble banknotes at a private company's office in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, December 17, 2014. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin (RUSSIA - Tags: BUSINESS) REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

The United States and British governments have agreed to keep the sanctions on Russia in place in response to Moscow's intervention in the Ukraine conflict. U.S. President Barack Obama said in a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron that strong sanctions against Russia must be maintained until Russian President Vladimir Putin decides to "end aggression in Ukraine."

Mr Obama said the U.S. and U.K. are united in the need to support Ukraine as the country implements crucial economic and democratic reforms. The Daily Mail reported that the U.S. and its Western allies have imposed stringent sanctions on Russia in 2014 as a consequence following the annexation of Crimea. Mr Obama has declared that the sanctions are working and he believes the move has weakened Mr Putin.

Previous reports have indicated that Russia's economy is slipping towards recession due to the Western sanctions, falling oil prices and weakening rouble. Russia's currency has declined 40 percent because of oil prices slashed in half in the last six months.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow told Reuters that the situation in Ukraine seems to be deteriorating. He believes pro-Russian separatists are not ready to implement the ceasefire agreement. Vershbow said that NATO would continue to uphold its decision to suspend all cooperation with Russia based on the "general view among allies." He added that NATO wants to see full implementation of the ceasefire agreement before steps are taken to re-engage Russia. 

Despite NATO's sentiment, European Commission President Jeane-Claude Juncker was has taken a more conciliatory tone on the issue when he said in Paris that he wants Russia to become "a strategic partner" again. He declared that Russia may be a strategic problem today but steps must be taken to find common ground without having to include the issue Crimea's annexation. Juncker said although Russia may have broken the international law, the bloc will not work if it remains focused on Crimea.

Meanwhile, aside from sanctions on Russia, Mr Obama and Mr Cameron also agreed to stand against terrorism particularly the extremist ideology inspiring homegrown terrorists to attack. Mr Obama said defeating the radicals will take slow and systematic work since intelligence and military force alone will not make the problem go away. 

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