On Tuesday, after accusing the Kremlin of supporting anti-Kiev militias in eastern Ukraine, and threatening to cripple the Russian economy, the United States, along with the 28 nations that comprise the European Union, announced a new series of sanctions against Moscow that could take place as early as August 1, 2014.
According to The Washington Post, the European measures were “the strongest against Russia since the Cold War, with the potential to sway Russian decision-making in a way that previous penalties have not.”
The EU released a statement saying that they agreed to enact these sanctions, in order to “limit access to EU capital markets for Russian State-owned financial institutions, impose an embargo on trade in arms, establish an export ban for dual use goods for military end users and curtail Russian access to sensitive technologies particularly in the field of the oil sector.”
According to RT, the EU’s decision to impose sanctions on Russia came after several months of European leaders increasing pressure on the Russian government by “extending visa bans and asset freezes for a number of individuals that the EU considers responsible for Moscow’s policy toward Ukraine or close to the ones who are.”
Just hours after the announcement from the European Union, President Obama made an announcement of his own regarding relations with Russia. He stated that the US Treasury department was adding the Bank of Moscow, the Russian Agricultural Bank, the United Shipbuilding Corporation, and VTB Bank OAO to the list of Russian Federation-affiliated entities sanctioned by Washington.
“Today is a reminder that the United States means what it says and we will rally the international community in standing up for the rights and freedom of people around the world,” said Obama. “Because we’re closely coordinating our actions with Europe, the sanctions we are announcing today will have an even bigger bite.”
Obama accused Russia of setting back “decades of genuine progress,” by isolating itself from the international community. “It does not have to be this way,” said Obama. “This is a choice that Russia, and President Putin in particular, has made.”
According to The New York Times, despite the fact that European leaders have been reluctant to impose sanctions up until now, their decision today “reflected increasing alarm that Russia is not only helping separatists in Ukraine but directly involving itself in the fighting.”
The president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, released a statement saying that the sanctions enacted by the EU were “meant as a strong warning: illegal annexation of territory and deliberate destabilization of a neighboring sovereign country cannot be accepted in 21st century Europe.” He went on to write, “Destabilizing Ukraine, or any other Eastern European neighboring state, will bring heavy costs.”
A senior economist at Oxford Economics in London, Adam Slater, predicted that the sanctions imposed on Russia would be successful, saying, “These sanctions can have quite a substantial chilling effect on the Russian economy. That is probably a quite effective way to put pressure on Russia.”
However, analysts at Citigroup released a statement to their clients saying, “Although the latest sanctions increase the costs for Russia, Russia’s perceived national security interest calculus should not change meaningfully as a result. If anything, official Russian government statements have emphasized Russia’s capacity for self-reliance.”
Despite the fact that international monitoring groups found that there was no evidence of Russia relocating troops to the Ukrainian border or supplying anti-Kiev militants with weapons, Obama still insisted that President Putin’s administration was “firing artillery across the border, transporting more military equipment to the rebels and massing its own troops.”
“It’s not a new cold war,” insisted Obama. “What it is is a very specific issue related to Russia’s unwillingness to recognize that Ukraine can chart its own path.”