Now that Crimea has “voted,” the Obama administration is ready to start unveiling sanctions against Russian and Crimean leaders who are linked to what the West is calling Russia’s invasion and subversion in Crimea. But with a fragile ceasefire set to expire by Friday, the sanctions are unlikely to work in time to head off a conflict.
There are signs that the short-term measures being contemplated, which includeasset freezes and visa bans for Russian government officials and business leaders, will not be biting enough to really put pressure on Putin and his friends.
According to one independent analysis being studied by the Kremlin and reviewed by The Daily Beast, such measures could be a drag on the Russian economy over time and an embarrassment for the Russian government, but would only be an “inconvenience” for the Russian economy in the near term. More drastic measures would include going after Russia’s ability to interact in global financial markets, which the analysis calls “disruptive,” and restrictions on Russian energy exports or trade sanctions, which the analysis says would be “catastrophic.”
The analysis by Macro-Advisory, an investment firm operating in Russia, predicts that the West, especially European countries, will not move to impose “disruptive” or “catastrophic” sanctions on Russia until Putin crosses another red line, such as the outright invasion of Ukraine.
“The key risk [for Russia] is Stage 3, i.e. a ban or restrictions on Russia’s interaction in global financial markets and/or any selected restrictions on trade or investment with Russia,” the report stated. “Investors assume that Stage 4 [catastrophic] sanctions are not yet on the agenda simply because these would also have a negative contagion to several EU countries, and many high-profile companies, as well as indirectly on the global economy.”
Meanwhile, the crisis in Crimea continued to unfold Sunday, when a reported 95.5 percent of voters opted in a near-choiceless referendum to leave Ukraine and join Russia. President Obama called Vladimir Putin shortly after the results were announced to reiterate that vote would never be recognized by the United States and the international community. It was a violation of the Ukrainian constitution, Obama added, made under duress of military intervention.
“He emphasized that Russia’s actions were in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and that, in coordination with our European partners, we are prepared to impose additional costs on Russia for its actions,” a White House read-out of the call said.
The Obama administration's plan to impose those additional costs was set last week. Secretary of State John Kerry revealed, perhaps accidentally, that the U.S. had no intention of waiting for the results of the Crimean referendum and was planning a “very series of serious steps on Monday” against Russia.
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