The EU followed the US on April 29 with more sanctions placed on Russian individuals, bringing the total under the regime to 64 for the US and 48 for the EU. If the US list came in for criticism as being too lame, then the EU list is even weaker.
The top name on the EU list is Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Kozak, a close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who also appeared on the US list. But thereafter almost all the 15 people on the EU list (there were seven officials and 17 companies on the US list) are directly connected to the events in Ukraine, including several military figures.
The list released April 29 also includes Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, and Lt. Gen. Igor Sergun, identified as head of GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency.
The US list targeted several senior Kremlin insiders. The companies are linked to a handful of businessmen closely associated with Putin. There were no companies on the EU list.
The US list will hurt Russia's economy due to the inclusion of Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, who is notable by his absence from the EU list. This will endanger a multibillion investment joint venture with US firm Exxon Mobil to develop Russia's Arctic territories. However, in general the US sanctions list is, as George Friedman of Stratfor argues, not designed to change Russian policies, rather "it is designed to make it look like the United States is trying to change Russian policy."
Rock and hard place
The weakness of EU list highlights the extremely difficult position that Europe finds itself in. Europe's economy is increasingly tied to that of Russia, which has already become a major retail and export market for European products. On the other hand the US has little economic interests in Russia, either in terms of investment or trade. Those US companies that operate in Russia – largely carmakers – are multinationals and so either care little for what the White House says or are all ready too committed to Russia to pull back. Besides, the Russian automotive market is one of the most dynamic in the world and multinationals are notoriously more interested in profits than politics.
The Kremlin will likely feel fairly sanguine about the EU list and has made gestures in the last 24 hours to suggest it is willing to start the process of walking back from the brink.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has reportedly ordered Russian troops on Ukraine's border to pull back, although there is no independent confirmation of this yet. Also the Kremlin announced on April 29 that it would meet with the interim Ukrainian government to talk about gas supplies.
The bottom line is that no one in Russia and Europe want this political crisis to continue, while the US is fighting on principle rather than pragmatism and so is less interested in winding it down. The problem that both sides have is how to find a middle ground without losing face. It is clear that Europe and even the US is prepared to concede Crimea to Russia (as indeed a recent poll found a large number of Ukrainians are), but if Russia takes over eastern Ukraine in any way, a harder opposition will probably coalesce.
Happily this bridge has not been crossed, so there is a chance of talking the way out of this crisis. But with Nato moving aircraft up to its eastern borders, the situation remains volatile and unpredictable.
The full list of EU names is here.
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