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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Are tougher sanctions against Russia to come? -- By AP, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — U.S. sanctions against a Russian bank and the Kremlin’s inner circle have pinched Moscow, but if the goal is to get President Vladimir Putin to roll his forces out of Crimea or prevent him from doing any more land grabs, their effectiveness remains in doubt.

Putin has mocked the punitive steps President Barack Obama has taken so far in their post-Cold War game of chess — or chicken.

He made jokes of Obama’s decision this week to freeze the assets of businessmen with close ties to Putin as well as Bank Rossiya, which provides them support. Putin quickly retaliated by slapping travel restrictions on nine U.S. officials and lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain, who quipped: “I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off.”

More serious repercussions loom if the standoff heats up.

For now, Putin says there is no need for further Russian retaliation, yet his Foreign Ministry vowed that Moscow would “respond harshly.”

Putin claims to have no plans for further incursions into Ukraine or elsewhere in the neighborhood. But he’s not planning to reverse Russia’s annexation of Crimea either.

The U.S. and Europe are left to weigh the possibility of levying tougher measures on Russia’s energy and banking sectors. That could backfire if Moscow, in turn, seized American or other foreign assets or cut exports of natural gas to Europe, which is heavily dependent on Russia for energy.

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