U.S. Sanctions Best Step to Counter Russians
There may be nothing that the United States and its allies in the European Union can do to force the Russians to leave Crimea at this point. But they can send a loud message that expanding the invasion beyond this Russian-centric region of Ukraine carries a heavy price. A new round of sanctions imposed last week on prominent Russian officials is a good way to begin to exact that price in the wake of a bogus election over the weekend on Crimean secession.
President Barack Obama signed an executive order freezing the assets and banning visas for a number of Russians who are said to be responsible for seizing Crimea. Several top aides of Russian President Vladimir Putin were on the list, which could grow.
Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Eastern Europe last week to meet with leaders in countries such as Poland and Estonia — countries that feel the most vulnerable to Russian aggression. And Obama himself is in Europe this week, a trip that was previously scheduled and now likely will focus on the crisis in Ukraine.
The sanctions put in place last week are designed to hit the people responsible for Russia’s outrageous violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. Among those facing sanctions are Vladislav Surkov, an influential adviser of Putin known as the Kremlin’s “gray cardinal.” Putin himself escaped sanctions — for now.
“We’re making it clear there are consequences for these actions,” Obama said. “The international community will continue to stand together to oppose any violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The move by the United States and EU came after a Russian-backed referendum in Crimea that locals there claimed showed 97% favored breaking away from Ukraine. While there is a large majority of people who consider themselves culturally Russian living in Crimea, the minority Tatars boycotted the vote, knowing as does the rest of the world that it was illegitimate.
A new government in Crimea, meantime, declared itself independent, and Putin recognized the region as a “sovereign and independent state” in defiance of the sanctions.
Europe has not seen such a host