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30th-Apr-2014

EU, US in cautious lockstep on Russia sanctions

By AFP, Washington

The United States has been moving cautiously in slapping sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis, keen to keep its EU allies on board and avoid exposing fault lines within the European bloc, analysts say.
Washington Monday unveiled a raft of new sanctions against seven more individuals with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and 17 companies mostly controlled by some of his powerful allies.
At the same time, the European Union said it had added 15 more people to its blacklist accused of fomenting chaos in Ukraine. Their names will be revealed on Tuesday.
Despite the moves, there was some frustration that Washington held back from full-scale economic sanctions against Russia's energy, mining and financial sectors and that rumors that state energy supplier Gazprom would be hit proved unfounded.
"I'd expected more substantial sanctions," Steven Pifer, senior fellow with the Brookings Institution, told AFP.
"My impression is that with the European Union when you have to bring together 28 countries to consensus you're going to get the lowest common denominator. I guess the Americans probably held back on some of the sharper sanctions because they did not want to get too far ahead of Europe."
Many European countries, notably economic powerhouse Germany, have close trade and financial links with Russia and fear Moscow could strike back as it begins to feel the economic pain from the months-long Ukraine crisis.
"Russia has done so much to escalate the crisis that the West needs to do more if we're going to have any prospect of changing the Russian course," Pifer said.
But he said that "at some point one might expect that the Russians might retaliate and Europe has more at stake than the United States does."
Confidence in Russia's economy has already been shaken since sanctions were first imposed last month following Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.
Analysts have already warned Russia could tip into recession in the second quarter of 2014 after the economy contracted by around 0.5 percent in the first three months of the year.
Monday's sanctions came just ahead of a visit to Washington by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with Ukraine due to top the agenda of talks with President Barack Obama on Friday.