While rejecting comparisons to the Cold War, President Obama on Tuesday announced new sanctions against Russia for supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The sanctions, building off measures announced two weeks ago, will target Russia’s energy, arms, and finance sectors of the economy.“We’re blocking the exports of specific goods and technologies to the Russian energy sector, expanding our sanctions to more Russian banks and defense companies, and we’re formally suspending credit that encourages exports to Russia and financing for economic development projects in Russia,” Obama said Tuesday from the South Lawn of the White House. The sanctions, he continued, will serve to make “a weak Russian economy even weaker.”
“In other words,” said Obama, “Russia is once again isolating itself from the international community, setting back decades of genuine progress. And it doesn’t have to come to this. It didn’t have to come to this. It does not have to be this way. This is a choice that Russia, and President Putin in particular, has made.”
Obama made no mention of recent findings that Russia had violated a 1987 nuclear missile treaty by testing cruise missiles as early as 2008. Rather, his rebuke focused primarily on the Kremlin’s latest efforts to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty.
Almost two weeks ago, Obama said it was time to impose new, tougher sanctions on Russia because of the country’s continued provocation in Ukraine. The targeted actions froze the assets of several Russian defense companies and blocked new financing of some of the country’s most important banks and energy companies. But calls for stronger action intensified when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a missile in eastern Ukraine one day after Obama made public the first wave of sanctions.
Despite the deteriorating relationship between the United States and Russia, President Obama stated clearly that the current situation was “not a new Cold War.” “What it is is a very specific issue related to Russia’s unwillingness to recognize that Ukraine can chart its own path,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov brushed off the latest sanctions, warning that they would only make Russia stronger and more independent.