Recent events show that the West is unable to pressure Russia that has been adding fuel to the destabilization fire in the east of Ukraine after occupying Crimea. Proof of this is a statement made by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier last Sunday, who said that “the public parading of the OSCE observers and Ukrainian security forces as prisoners is revolting and blatantly hurts the dignity of the victims.” He added: “Russia has an obligation to act on the separatists.” This statement was made several days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to address the separatists in the east of Ukraine and convince them to lay down arms, otherwise the European Union would resort to further sanctions against Russia.
On Saturday, G-7 countries condemned Russia of violating the Geneva accords on de-escalating the situation in Ukraine and issued a statement that reads, in part: “We, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission, join in expressing our deep concern at the continued efforts by separatists backed by Russia to destabilize eastern Ukraine and our commitment to taking further steps to ensure a peaceful and stable environment for the May 25 presidential election.”
In fact, the US and EU imposed sanctions against Russia after its annexation of Crimea, made a list of non grata Russian visitors, and froze their assets abroad, with only Rossiya Bank being on the blacklist, however.
Reuters reports, citing diplomatic sources, that 15 names will be added to a blacklist of 33 names. One of its contacts told the press agency: “You will find a European list much more connected to actions on the ground, and an American list more focused on [Putin’s] cronies and entities.” The decision to add 15 names was made by a meeting of the EU’s Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) last night in Brussels.
The text of the resolution will be carried by the Official Journal of the European Union, but diplomats in Brussels say the ambassadors will take the first step in the direction of Phase 3: economic sanctions against Russia. In other words, this third phase remains to be carried out.
Washington appears to have taken a firmer stand. The New York Times quotes unidentified White House officials as saying that there will be sanctions against Rosneft president Igor Sechin and Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller. This time sanctions will be on a sectoral basis, including targeted moves severing hi-tech supplies to Russia’s defense industry, although not on as large scale as in the case with Iran.
The Obama administration on Monday imposed new sanctions on Russia, targeting elite government officials and companies tied to Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, in a fresh bid to compel Moscow to ratchet down tensions in eastern Ukraine.
US congressional lawmakers, and even Obama himself, have questioned whether new sanctions will have an impact. As he announced the package, Obama acknowledged that “we don’t yet know whether it’s going to work.”
Indeed, none of these sanctions seem to have outwardly affected Russia in any ways. Putin doesn’t seem to bother about the price he and his country will have to pay for struggling to conquer part of eastern Ukraine (what he calls Novorossiya – New Russia).
On April 24, The National Interest carried an article entitled “Does Putin Want a War?” by Steven Pifer, John Herbst, and William Taylor. It reads: “If Washington and Brussels wish to change that calculation, they must now apply additional and more meaningful sanctions.
“First, the United States and European Union should greatly expand the list of individual Russians – inside and outside of government – targeted for visa and financial sanctions. Sanctions should apply to family members as well.
“Second, the West should sanction key parts of the Russian economy, beginning with its financial sector. It should target at least several Russian financial institutions. The European Union, particularly Britain, must join in, with the aim of halting international credit to Russian entities. That would further stress the slowing Russian economy.
“Third, the United States and European Union should block their energy companies from new investments to develop oil and gas fields in Russia. With Moscow dependent on oil and gas sales for 70 percent of its export earnings, such a measure would send shudders through the Russian energy sector.
“Since coming to power in 2000, Mr. Putin has offered Russian citizens a trade-off: diminished individual political space in return for economic growth and rising living standards. The West should undermine his ability to deliver on the economic side. Mr. Putin may retaliate, but the combined economies of the United States and European Union dwarf Russia’s by a factor of well over ten to one.
“This is a menu of serious actions. Mr. Putin’s continuing aggression against Ukraine calls for a serious response. A failure to act now will allow him to believe that he has a free hand regarding Ukraine. That is not in Ukraine’s interest, or the West’s.”
Now it is the US President’s turn to show whether he can use this menu and actually put an end to what Putin is doing in Ukraine.