Not as promptly as we’d hoped, but better now than later, the nations of the European Union have resolved to join the U.S in tightening the economic sanctions whose aim is to oblige Russia’s Vladimir Putin to withdraw his armaments from the border of the Eastern Ukraine.
Support for pro-Soviet militants in that region threatens to provoke a fresh round of tensions between the Moscow regime and the West.
Indications are that the punitive measures will be carefully targeted, and rightly so. For it is the Kremlin regime, not the long-suffering Russian people, who should bear the cost of Putin’s dangerous miscalculation.
Instead of focusing narrowly on the Soviet strongman and his cronies, the aim of the new restrictions is to bring pressure to bear specifically on sectors that are economic props of the Kremlin’s power.
Major Russian banks will lose access to American and European credit sources. Other penalties will include an embargo on foreign arms trade and denial of access to U.S. oil extraction technology.
Putin had managed for several months to run his bluff in the Crimea. But that changed with awful suddenness on July 17 last year when a ground-to-air missile fired by pro-Soviet rebels in eastern Ukraine blew from the sky a Malaysia Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all of the nearly 300 passengers on board — an atrocity that, in the EU’s words, required an urgent and determined response.
Putin’s standing was already reported to be eroding because of the deaths of young Russian conscripts whose lives have been lost in a Ukrainian conflict the people neither wanted nor supported. The pointless downing of the airliner further weakened his position.
Whatever the effect of these new sanctions, they are not intended to impose further hardship on the people of that economically distressed country. Nor should they.
For today, as in the 70 preceding years of Communist Party dictatorship, they are only struggling to build lives of decency and purpose over the relentless obstruction of their rulers.