On Monday, the White House announced yet another round of economic sanctions against Russia.
But the question is, “Does it really matter?”
President Obama imposed the latest sanctions after Russia failed to defuse the situation in Ukraine, which was part of a recent diplomatic agreement.
Indeed, rather than mollifying the situation, Putin has allowed pro-Russian separatists to escalate the crisis. On top of that, Russia is accused of supporting the protesters, who’ve occupied numerous official buildings in Eastern Ukraine and are responsible for shooting the mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city on Monday.
The expanded sanctions target seven government officials and 17 companies linked to Putin, including several tech and defense companies. That brings the total number of U.S. sanctions to 45 individuals and 19 companies. The European Union (EU) has also sanctioned 46 individuals.
However, the United States’ ability to deter Putin remains extremely limited, and some analysts say that the expanded measures still aren’t tough enough to be effective.
Dollars and Cents, Pounds and Pence
The latest expansion targets numerous high-profile Russians, including Igor Sechin, the Chief Executive of Rosneft. He, along with the other individuals named in the sanctions, will face a visa ban, and his assets will be frozen. The companies named will have their assets frozen, as well.
Not to be outdone, Moscow’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, replied to the sanctions by saying, “A response of Moscow will follow, and it will be painfully felt in Washington, D.C.”
In spite of the Russian rhetoric, though, White House officials admit that the sanctions are unlikely to prompt “immediate change” in Putin’s approach.
Part of the problem is hesitation from EU allies. You see, a number of EU countries – who have much greater ties to Russia than the United States does – are worried that increased sanctions will greatly affect their economies.
Those concerns have kept both the EU and the United States from imposing sanctions on Russian industries such as the energy sector.
But many analysts criticize this approach, saying that trying to limit the economic blowback only bolsters Putin’s position.
Michael Singh, Managing Director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said, “The problem is it sends the signal [that] we’re willing to act, but only as far as it doesn’t cost us very much. The risk is, it reinforces [Putin’s] view [that] he’s the one with the leverage here because of our view of the risk or cost of sanctions.”
Only recently has Germany begun warming to the idea of much tougher sanctions. Last week, four Germans were captured, along with three other European military monitors, and held captive in Eastern Ukraine. The violence may have started to sway German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s position.
But is it enough to get the EU to take a tougher stance? And would that even change the course of the Ukrainian crisis?
Tell us what you think on our Facebook page. Is the United States doing enough to deter Putin? Or is a much tougher stance needed to ensure Ukraine’s freedom and keep Russia from invading neighboring countries?
This commentary originally appeared at WallStreetDaily.com and is reprinted here with permission.