Leaders of the Western World responded swiftly to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order sending troops to separatist regions of Ukraine, aiming to avert a full-blown war in Europe.
Germany took the first major step by halting certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia – a massive, lucrative deal long sought by Moscow and criticized by the U.S. for increasing Europe’s dependence on Russian energy.
As part of the sanctions, President Biden announced complete financial sanctions on two large Russian financial institutions and comprehensive sanctions on Russian debt.
As a result, the Russian government has been cut off from Western finance, Biden said. Russia can no longer raise money from the West, nor can it trade its new debt on our markets or European markets.
In the event that Putin proceeds further, Biden promised to impose even stricter sanctions.
The European Union announced sanctions against 351 Russian lawmakers who voted to recognize separatist regions in Ukraine. This includes 27 other officials and institutions from the defence and banking sectors. Moscow was also prohibited from accessing EU capital and financial markets.
Putin warned over further Ukraine aggressions
A meeting of EU foreign ministers in Paris was chaired by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who said: “This package of sanctions will hurt Russia and it will hurt a lot.”
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EU Commission, said the EU would make it as difficult as possible for the Kremlin to carry out its aggressive policies against Ukraine.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday announced sanctions against five Russian banks and three wealthy individuals outside of the EU.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said that if Putin pushed further into Ukraine, “there will be even more sanctions and a higher price to pay.”
The United States and other Western nations are pressing for diplomatic efforts to prevent a military confrontation. The failure of that effort was underscored Tuesday by Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s cancellation of a meeting with his Russian counterpart scheduled for Thursday in Geneva, saying Russia’s actions made the meeting pointless.
The West has long insisted that the fate of Ukraine must not lead to a direct military confrontation with Russia and the potential of a world war, which is why sanctions were the only option.
Putin’s Strategy on Ukraine Confusing
As Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte noted, “No lie will ever be too blatant, no boundary too red,” in describing the political anger felt by nations around Russia’s border, such as Japan and South Korea, at Putin’s actions.
Despite this, Putin’s strategy has led to confusion about what he may be doing and his plans.
The Russian government said it sent “peacekeepers” to eastern Ukraine, but EU foreign policy chief Borrell said they were “troops” on Ukrainian territory.
“I wouldn’t call it an invasion, but Russian troops are on Ukrainian soil,” Borrell said.
Ben Wallace, the British defence secretary, didn’t mince words about Ukraine. He said, “Russia has already invaded Ukraine.” That happened in 2014 when they illegally occupied Crimea and Donbas. “This is an invasion of their sovereign territory,” Wallace continued.
The EU’s foreign ministers said the EU sanctions announced Tuesday were done in close consultation with the United States and other Western allies, regardless of the description.
Massive Sanction May Follow
While Kyiv continues to control its national territory, the EU and Washington have threatened a “massive” package for a full military invasion.
“How we respond will define us for future generations,” Simonyte said.
However, too much too soon could harm the international response to Ukraine, said Britain’s Johnson. The sanctions are the first barrage of what we’re prepared to do, and we’re prepared to deploy more if needed,” he told British lawmakers.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian agreed that this was the first step. “We have additional ammunition.”
In his announcement, Biden appeared to reserve some of the most extensive and severe punishments that the United States had considered. These include a ban on exporting U.S. high-tech to Russia for its industries and military, as well as more sweeping financial sanctions that could severely weaken Russia’s ability to conduct business with the rest of the world.
Secretary of State Blinken reiterated the “start high, stay high” approach of the sanctions.
No Russian financial institution will be safe
Daleep Singh, White House deputy national security adviser, said the sanctions send a message that “no Russian financial institution is safe if the invasion continues.”
“No one should think that we’re setting sanctions to the maximum,” Singh said. “Sanctions do not exist as a self-contained entity.” Sanctions serve a greater purpose: deterring and preventing.”
U.S. sanctions target two major Russian banks, Vnesheconombank (VEB) and Promsvyazbank Public Joint Stock Company (PSB). The VEB is important to Russia’s ability to raise funds, and the PSB is important to Russia’s defence industry. The two have combined assets worth more than $80 billion and will be unable to conduct transactions through the U.S. and European banking systems.
Kymtro Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister, said U.S. and Western sanctions against Russia could work, but he urged allies to be aggressive. Kuleba argued that Putin should not have a “single moment” when he feels that sanctions have reached a limit.
Among the oligarchs and others close to Putin to face sanctions are Denis Bortnikov, head of the state-owned VTB Bank, and Petr Fradkov, chairman and CEO of PSB.
On the sanctions list was the VTB official’s father, Aleksandr Bortnikov. He is the director of the Federal Security Service and a permanent member of the Russian Federation’s Security Council. His father Mikhail Fradkov was a former Russian prime minister and director of the foreign intelligence service of Russia.
Breach of International Law
Vladimir Kiriyenko, the CEO of the parent company of Russia’s top social network, VKontakte, as well as Sergei Kiriyenko, Putin’s first deputy chief of staff, was also nominated.
The chances of a major conflict being averted are dwindling. Putin’s directive comes hours after he recognized the two Ukrainian separatist regions as independent. This set up Russian military support and enraging Western leaders who view his actions as a breach of international law.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed NATO for the current crisis and said the U.S.-led alliance is a threat to Russia.
Western powers are concerned that Russia may use the rising skirmishes in eastern Ukraine as a pretext for attacking the democracy that defies Russia’s attempts to draw it back into its orbit.
According to the U.S., Russia has already decided to invade Ukraine with more than 150,000 troops massed on three sides of the country. Even so, Biden and Putin tentatively agreed to hold a meeting brokered through French President Emmanuel Macron.
Source: The Associated Press