Today the US announced more sanctions on individuals, businesses, banks and Gazprom. The one person not targeted is Putin, the alleged perpetrator of the crisis.
Bloomberg reports U.S. Plans to Hit Putin Inner Circle With Sanctions.
Deputy White House National Security Adviser Tony Blinken pledged “news for Monday” on sanctions as the focus on the ground in Ukraine turned to a team of international observers seized by pro-Russian separatists. Among those that may be hit are Russia’s third-largest lender, OAO Gazprombank, development lender Vnesheconombank, and Igor Sechin, the chief executive officer of OAO Rosneft (ROSN), according to people familiar with developments. Sechin is a confidant of the Russian president.
“We will be looking to designate people who are in his inner circle, who have a significant impact on the Russian economy,” Blinken said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program today. “We’ll be looking to designate companies that they and other inner-circle people control. We’ll be looking at taking steps as well with regard to high-technology exports to their defense industry. All of this together is going to have an impact.”
Representatives of the 28 European Union nations will also meet tomorrow to widen a list of people subject to asset freezes and travel bans, an official from the bloc said yesterday. The sanctions will target 15 Russians in positions of power, another diplomat said. Both asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“What we will hear about in the coming days is an expansion of existing sanctions, measures against individuals or entities in Russia,” U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague told Sky News television today. “Already we have seen more than $60 billion of capital flight out of Russia so far this year, and serious falls in the Russian stock market. So no one should underestimate the impact on Russia and Russia’s own interests of continued escalation of this crisis.”
In the wake of those capital outflows and a credit-rating downgrade by Standard & Poor’s, Russia’s central bank unexpectedly raised its key interest rate to 7.5 percent on April 25. The ruble has lost almost 9 percent this year against the dollar, the second-worst performance among 24 emerging currencies tracked by Bloomberg after Argentina’s peso.
Sechin may be among those facing travel bans and asset freezes tomorrow, according to a U.S. official familiar with the situation. Executives at Gazprombank are preparing for possible sanctions, two people with knowledge of the deliberations said last week, while Vnesheconombank is taking precautionary measures, according to a person familiar with talks at the lender.
U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, called on President Barack Obama’s administration to impose sanctions on four of Russia’s largest banks and OAO Gazprom (OGZD), the country’s gas-export monopoly.
“It’s going to be more effective if everybody signs on and everybody’s committed,” Obama told a news conference today in Putrajaya, Malaysia. “We’re going to be in a stronger position to deter Mr. Putin when he sees that the world is unified and the United States and Europe is unified, rather than this is just a U.S.-Russia conflict.”
The planned EU moves are not set to include broader trade, financial and economic measures against Russia, known as “stage three” sanctions. Hague said work on those is continuing.
It’s not clear why striking back at friends and associates of someone who allegedly committed a crime should be legal, but legalities do not stop this president, nor have they stopped any president.
That aside, if Gazprom is shut off from the world, then what’s the point of Russia delivering any gas to Europe?
Things can get out of hand in a hurry if the US keeps turning the screws. Desperate people do desperate things. Of course, that is exactly what some warmongers want.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock