Europe must treat Russia “decently” and improve relations, European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday while speaking to reporters in Germany.
He said, “We must make efforts towards a practical relationship with Russia.”
“We can’t let our relationship with Russia be dictated by Washington.” Juncker stressed, referencing US President Barack Obama’s statement on Russia, which described Russia as a “regional power.”
“I know from my conversations with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin that he (does not accept) phrases like when Barack Obama said Russia was a regional power. What does that mean? You can't talk about Russia like that,” Junker said.
“Russia should be treated as an equal,” Juncker said at a conference, while stressing that Russia’s role in Crimea and east Ukraine was unacceptable.
In 2014, EU and some other Western nations began imposing restrictive measures on Russian Federation in response to its annexation of Crimea, in order to “de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine.”
The sanctions EU imposed on Russia restricts lending to Russian state banks, defence and oil companies as well as restrictions on weapon and military equipment procurement.
Aside from the sanctions imposed by Brussels, 151 people were banned from being able to obtain EU visas and 17 entities’ assets were frozen by EU. Additionally diplomatic relations were halted, as EU member states decided not to hold regular bilateral summits with Russia.
In response to EU’s strong sanctions, Russia has also began imposing sanctions on EU countries and has banned certain food imports from countries such as Australia, Canada, Norway and the US.
Moscow’s relations with European countries came under the spotlight once again, after Russia started air strikes in Syria in support of Bashar al Assad's government.
Following EU defence ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday, NATO strongly criticised Russia’s recent military actions in Syria and its violations of Turkey’s airspace.
After Russia stepped up military actions in Syria, decision was made by NATO to double the size of its joint multinational response forces.
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg has stated on Thursday that NATO was ready and able to defend all allies, including Turkey.
US State Department spokesman, John Kirby has also expressed US concerns during a press briefing and said 90 percent of Russian attacks in Syria were not targeting ISIS positions.
"They’ve been largely against opposition groups, groups that want a better future for Syria and don’t want to see the Assad regime stay in power." Kirby said.