US joins EU in imposing sanctions on Russia
The US government is coordinating a sanctions regime with the EU against Russia that will put the squeeze on some international financial transactions while preventing Moscow from upgrading its energy sector.
For the first time, the sanctions will target specific Russian banks and companies, while hitting Russian imports of oil drilling equipment.
Europe's actions were particularly significant given that the continent has a far stronger economic relationship with Russia than the U.S. does. Until this week, the EU sanctions had lagged behind American penalties, in part because of leaders' concerns about a negative impact on their own economies.
But Europe's calculus shifted sharply after a surface-to-air missile brought down the passenger jet, killing nearly 300 people including more than 200 Europeans. The new European penalties include an arms embargo on Moscow and a ban on the unapproved sale to the Russians of technology that has dual military and civilian uses or is particularly sensitive, such as advanced equipment used in deep-sea and Arctic oil drilling.
Obama said the U.S. sanctions would hit the finance, arms and energy sectors of Russia's economy. Among the U.S. sanctions, according to the Treasury Department, are U.S. penalties that target the Bank of Moscow, the Russian Agricultural Bank and VTB Bank. Also listed on the Treasury designation is the United Shipbuilding Corp., which is based in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Obama said the U.S. is also blocking the export of certain goods and technologies to the Russian energy sector, and suspending credit "that encourages exports to Russia and financing for economic development projects in Russia."
In making the case for the additional steps, Obama said Russia has continued to support the separatists, "and encourage them and train them and arm them." He said forces inside Russia are launching artillery strikes into Ukraine, which he called a "major violation of Ukraine's sovereignty."
He also said Russia continues to build up its own forces near the border.
The new EU sanctions mirror steps announced by the U.S. the day before the Malaysian airliner was shot out of the sky. The White House has been pressing Europe in recent days to bring its penalties in line with the U.S., both to increase the economic pressure on Moscow and present a united Western front.
The trick for the Europeans was to find sanctions that would hurt Russia more than their own economies. Sanctioning those Russian banks, for instance, will hurt the EU financial sector who do a moderate amount of business with the Russians. But squeezing Russia's credit will hurt them more in the short term.
Putin apparently doesn't care. He is calling for "self reliance" as the Russian people still back him. But as the Ukraine civil war drags on, and Russia becomes more active in supporting the separatists, the chances are good that more sanctions will be forthcoming that, taken together with previous sanctions, will finally begin to impact ordinary Russians and caise Putin to think seriously about the costs of his adventurism.