Don’t Lift Russia’s Sanctions Yet

The 28 member states of the European Council will convene later this month to debate whether to renew sanctions against Russia for its military aggression in eastern Ukraine and illegal annexation of Crimea. The sanctions package has been extended every six months since it was first adopted in July 2014. But some countries are now pushing behind the scenes for a gradual withdrawal of sanctions.

That would be a mistake. It’s not yet time to return to business as usual with Moscow. Lifting sanctions now would send a dangerous signal of weakness and division in Europe.

The unanimous adoption of sanctions two years ago was a rare moment of solidarity and unity on strategic issues in Europe, a fact too little noticed at a time when Europeans are prompt to bash themselves and lament their own weaknesses. Opponents and supporters of Mr. Putin’s policies sometimes tend to overstate his strength and strategic prowess. Russia has much more to gain from lifting sanctions than Europeans. Western strategy should reflect that reality.

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