Skip to main content

Opinion: Europe must increase sanctions on Russia

By Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor and Sanctions expert George Lopez, Special to CNN
updated 12:24 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine says the EU must increase sanctions on Russia
  • Sanctions have not yet deterred the Russia from support of the separatists, the authors say
  • Previous targeted sanctions have demonstrated that the U.S. and the EU can act together

Editor's note: William Taylor served as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006-2009 and is currently the vice president for Middle East and Africa at the United States Institute of Peace.
Dr. George Lopez, a sanctions expert, is the vice president of the Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding at USIP. The views expressed here are their own.

(CNN) -- With their invasion of Crimea and their support for the violent -- and now murderous -- pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, the Russian government has grossly and blatantly violated international law, international treaties and international norms that have underpinned post-World War II and post- Cold War Europe.

In response, the United States quickly imposed travel bans and asset freezes on Russians and Ukrainian separatists; the European Union followed suit.

William Taylor
William Taylor
George Lopez
George Lopez

These targeted sanctions have demonstrated that the Americans and Europeans can act together.

Despite hitting the financial sector of the Russian economy hard, the sanctions have not yet deterred the Russian government from continued support of the separatists.

This support has now resulted in the deaths of nearly 300 civilians on board Malaysian Airlines Flight 17.

This tragedy poses a significant policy choice to European leaders: to fully implement sanctions adopted at their most recent meeting, such as suspension of some European Investment Bank activities in Russia, and then to adopt and implement their 'Phase 3' of tougher measures in the energy and banking sectors.

The day before the airliner was shot down, the U.S. imposed more punishing sanctions on major Russian banks, Russian oil and gas giants and Russian defense firms.

These now take on added meaning and leverage against Russian President Putin.

However, the Europeans have been reluctant to take these stronger measures.

In addition to outrage, European leaders should escalate sanctions, just as private European interests are already joining this embargo for business reasons.
William Taylor and George Lopez

Europe does more trade with Russian firms, depends on Russian natural gas and sells into Russian markets.

They have tried to look away from the Russian-sponsored turmoil in Ukraine, hoping their economic interests can be spared.

That is no longer a viable policy option. If Russia is to be moved to change course, coordinated intensification is needed.

France has been the prime example of European protectionism. The Russians are set to purchase two helicopter aircraft carriers from the French for about $1.6 billion.

President Francois Hollande said on Monday France will go ahead with the sale of the first of these two ships, although he said the delivery of the second carrier would depend on Moscow's attitude.

These Mistral-class warships are equipped with six helicopter landing zones, can carry 30 helicopters, 40 tanks and 500 marines. They are very capable weapons of mobile war.

No nation should be equipping Russian military forces in light of their newly demonstrated willingness to invade friendly nations.

MH17 crashes one day after new sanctions
McCain: Putin 'getting away with murder'
What's Putin's next move?

Robert O'Brien has suggested an innovative approach: let the French provide these two ships to the US Navy in return for a 20 percent reduction in the $9 billion fine assessed by the U.S. authorities on the French bank BNP Paribas for violating US sanctions on Iran.

The British have been reluctant to impose financial sanctions on Russia out of concern for London as a hub for Russian investors moving their money abroad.

The Germans have been unusually close to the Russians based on historical connections and natural gas dependency. The Dutch have been especially sensitive to Russian influence. All this has now changed with the downing of flight MH17.

British and German statements in the past two days reflect a growing possibility for more strict measures. The Dutch have angrily condemned the Russian government's clear support for the murderous thugs in eastern Ukraine in the strongest terms.

In addition to outrage, European leaders should escalate sanctions, just as private European interests are already joining this embargo for business reasons. Europe's statement on Tuesday was welcome but must be followed with strong action.

In June both HBSC and Lloyds Banking Group withdrew a significant loan to Russia's largest oil producer Rosneft due to the uncertain economic climate.

And most data suggest the sanctions are having an increased impact.

Commodities sales from Russia are at unprecedented lows and Russian companies have no longer been able to extend the duration of loans held or cut their debt costs in a deteriorating climate.

Economic sanctions can work. We have seen their effect on Iran.

The international community united to impose harsh economic sanctions on Iranian oil exports, banking system and economic activity. As a result, the Iranians are now negotiating seriously in an attempt to lift these sanctions in return for assurances that their nuclear program is entirely peaceful.

Unified sanctions by the U.S. and Europe can give Putin two choices: double down on his support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine and face yet more sanctions and possible full scale isolation from the international community; or disavow these separatists and seal the Russian border so that further weapons, trainers, finance, security forces and volunteers can no longer flow into Ukraine.

But the latter, preferred choice will not come unless the European leaders act now to implement recent measures they have authorized and move to the 'Phase 3' sanctions they have available to them.

Read more: Top 10 Russian sanctions targets
Opinion: Act now, or face war in Ukraine

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:52 AM EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
Jim Boulden on the future of online shopping.
updated 4:42 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is Turkey's new president . So can he revitalize its economic fortunes?
updated 8:44 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
The European Union is stepping in to save its dairy from going sour.
updated 8:36 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Europe's deteriorating relationship with Russia has hit the region's growth, even before new food sanctions begin to bite.
updated 12:34 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
With cyberattacks on the rise and here to stay, it's a modern-day challenge for people and businesses to get smarter about preventing them.
updated 9:24 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Airstrikes, rebels seizing control of oil fields, plus a severe refugee crisis are a recipe for market panic. So why are Iraq oil prices stable?
updated 11:24 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Evidence points to pro-Russian separatists as perpetrators of the attack and Vladimir Putin is facing uncomfortable questions, David Clark writes.
updated 10:40 AM EDT, Tue August 5, 2014
The biggest Ebola outbreak in history is taking its toll in Western Africa, hitting some of West Africa's most vulnerable economies.
updated 5:02 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
Macau has overtaken Switzerland in the wealth stakes, being named the world's fourth richest territory by the World Bank.
updated 10:47 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Saudi Arabian Bateel brand is best known for its delectable dates but it now has more than a dozen cafes and a new bakery in the works.
updated 7:00 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A British nanotech company has created what it says is the world's darkest material. It is so dark the human eye can't discern its shape and form.
updated 12:02 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Jibo robot is designed to be an organizer, educator and assist family members. CNN's Maggie Lake met him and says she was impressed with his skills.
updated 5:09 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
American burger joints have sprung up all over London, but how to know which ones are best? CNN's Jim Boulden investigates.
updated 8:22 AM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
Sandwiched in between Iraq and Syria, Jordan's destiny seems to be one of a constant struggle for survival. John Defterios explains.
updated 11:02 AM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
At the last football World Cup, it was all about 3D. This time around, it's nothing less than 4K.
updated 6:58 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Bob Mazzer has photographed inside London's Tube network for 40 years. He's captured history.
updated 1:12 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Exotic animals are becoming a profitable business opportunity for Nicaraguan entrepreneurs. CNN's Rafael Romo reports.
updated 11:29 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Iraq produces 3.3 million barrels per day and has the world's fourth-largest oil reserves. But the current crisis is putting all this in danger.
updated 8:22 AM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
Sandwiched in between Iraq and Syria, Jordan's destiny seems to be one of a constant struggle for survival. John Defterios explains.
updated 9:14 AM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
The gas standoff between Russia and Ukraine could have a knock-on effect on Europe. Explore this map to find out why is the EU nervous.
updated 6:58 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Bob Mazzer has photographed inside London's Tube network for 40 years. He's captured history.
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Tue June 17, 2014
The UK capital promotes its tech stars and shows it can compete with Silicon Valley. Here are five companies that pitch to make it big.
ADVERTISEMENT