The EU and the US have been stepping up sanctions against Russia because the Kremlin has broken every basic rule of the pan-European security order enshrined in the Helsinki Treaty of 1975. The effective closure of financial markets for Russia’s big businesses now has serious bite. The Kremlin’s counter-sanctions are marginal. Russia’s actual and threatened trade sanctions against Ukraine, alongside its aggression over Crimea and east Ukraine, mean that it has cast itself in the image of an enemy for most Ukrainians. Europe’s trust of the Kremlin has sunk to its lowest level since pre-Gorbachev times. If Russia were to switch to a sincerely cooperative, long-term peace mode with Ukraine, the EU and the US would no doubt be happy to scrap the sanctions. In the absence of this, however, the logic would be for the EU and the US to sustain the most significant economic sanctions for as long as it takes, with preparedness to intensify them.
Michael Emerson is Associate Senior Research Fellow at CEPS.