Obama Levies New Sanctions Against Russia. Europe Ponders Whether to Follow Suit.

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We now have a response to Russia’s latest military provocations in eastern Ukraine:

President Obama is ratcheting up pressure on Russia with new sanctions aimed at large banks and defense firms in what administration officials say is the most significant crackdown on Russian individuals and businesses since the crisis in Ukraine began.

….The new penalties come in coordination with European leaders now meeting in Brussels to contemplate their own sanctions against Russia. Those efforts are expected to center on obstructing loans to Russian interests from European development banks.

I’ll be curious to see what the Europeans decide to do. For all the opportunistic griping from Republicans about Obama being too soft on Putin and inviting a new Cold War blah blah blah, it’s always been European leaders who have been the obstacle to harsher sanctions against Russia. And since Russia does very little business with the US but does lots of business with Europe, American sanctions just don’t matter that much unless the Europeans join in. Obama’s hands are tied.

Of course, the very fact that Europe does lots of business with Russia means that sanctions hurt them a lot more than they hurt us. It’s easy for Americans to be blustery and hawkish, safe in the knowledge that Russian retaliation can’t really hurt us much. It’s a lot less easy for Europeans.

That said, the fact is that Obama has been trying to take the lead on this for months. European leaders now need to decide if they’re willing to join in. The ball’s in their court.

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