U.S., Europe Hit Russia With New Sanctions

The European Union has agreed to a new, tougher set of economic sanctions on Russia, officials said Tuesday, as the United States and its allies escalated a major diplomatic battle with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

President Obama is expected to announce a similar set of sanctions in statement shortly before 4 p.m.

The package "will limit access to EU capital markets for Russian State-owned financial institutions, (and) impose an embargo on trade in arms," said a statement from the European Union.

The EU also said new penalties would "establish an export ban for dual use goods for military end users, and curtail Russian access to sensitive technologies particularly in the field of the oil sector."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the Obama administration's new sanctions would closely track those of the EU.

The sanctions news comes as the Obama administration accuse the Russians of violating a 1987 arms control treaty by testing new long-range missiles.

"This is a serious concern that we've raised with Russians on many occasions," Earnest said.

In announcing new sanctions, the EU cited what it called ongoing Russian support for violent separatists in neighboring Ukraine. They also cited the recent missile strike that destroyed a commercial jetliner.

"When the violence created spirals out of control and leads to the killing of almost 300 innocent civilians in their flight from the Netherlands to Malaysia, the situation requires urgent and determined response," said the EU statement.

Obama administration aides said the new European Union penalties touch on major sectors of the Russian economy, including oil and energy, banking, technology, and arms sales. Close associates of Putin are also targeted over the violence by pro-Russian separatists in neighboring Ukraine.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite tweeted that she welcome the EU decision "on a wide range of sanctions on Russia."

Meanwhile, President Obama has written Putin a letter saying that tests of a new cruise missile violate the terms of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty.

The INF treaty of 1987 forbids production or testing of a ground-launched cruise missile with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (about 310 to 3,400 miles).

The INF complaint and the new sanctions are the latest moves in U.S.-Russian tensions — perhaps the worst since the Cold War — that center largely on violence in Ukraine. Obama and allies say that Russia is improperly aiding pro-Russian separatists operating in eastern Ukraine.

Obama and Putin have also clashed over Russia's decision to grant political asylum to Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who leaked once-secret operations of the National Security Agency.

In recent days, the United States and its allies have accused Russia of actually firing weapons into Ukraine. They have also called on Putin to demand that separatists provide access to the remains of the passenger jet that was shot down earlier this month.

The U.S. and European allies began sanctioning Russia after it seized and annexed the Crimea region of Russia earlier this year. Those previous sets tended to target individuals and specific businesses.

A new package of sanctions, discussed Tuesday by European Union diplomats in Brussels, could touch on entire sectors of the Russian economy.

Tony Blinken, Obama's deputy national security adviser, said Europeans leaders have made clear they want to target "the financial sector, the arms sector, (and) the energy sector" of Russia. Blinken also said that the EU is looking at some of Putin's "cronies," a term the EU also used in its statement.

"The United States will implement additional measures itself," Blinken said.

Some European officials have warned that new sanctions could hurt their own economies because of strong ties to Russia, particularly energy supplies. Russia is the world's biggest exporter of gas and second biggest exporter of oil, with many of those supplies going to Europe.

Global financial firms have warned their clients about the possible financial impacts of new sanctions, which included restrictions on bond sales and other activities by Russian-owned banks.

Obama discussed possible sanctions in a Monday video conference with the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom.

"They agreed on the importance of coordinated sanctions measures on Russia for its continued transfer of arms, equipment, and fighters into eastern Ukraine, including since the crash, and to press Russia to end its efforts to destabilize the country and instead choose a diplomatic path for resolving the crisis."

Blinken said that existing sanctions have hurt the Russian economy, and that new ones will make it worse. He said that previous sanctions have cut the value of the Russian rube, encouraged a flight of capital, and dried up foreign investment, and new and heavier sanctions will make things worse.

Jeffrey Mankoff, a fellow with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said new sanctions could damage the Russian economy. He also said that Putin and Russia appear to have a vested interest in a pro-Russian Ukraine.

"I don't know how Putin backs down and admits defeat," said Mankoff, deputy director of the CSIS Russia and Eurasia Program. "It's a really dangerous situation."

Contributing: John Bacon


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