The main role here also continues to lie with Germany. The reason is simple: The country has very close business relations with Russia and has the greatest capacity to exert pressure. Still, German businesses would also be vulnerable were Russia to take retaliatory measures. Economic warfare could prove expensive for Germany. And this puts Merkel in a difficult situation since she may be forced to push through political measures that harm her country’s business interests. Now that it has made a claim to leadership, Berlin can’t simply retract it.
The sanctions the EU imposed against Russia on Monday in response to Sunday’s Crimea referendum remain moderate. The plan involves freezing bank accounts and issuing travel bans against 21 Russian and Crimean politicians. If Putin continues to escalate the situation, however, more decisive action could follow.
Doubtful. Sanctions that actually manage to affect the Russian people will only increase and solidify national support for Putin. The Russian in the street absolutely hates the collapse in prestige the Soviet Union experienced after the collapse, and they adore Vladimir Putin for “standing up to western bullying.”
On the other hand, Germans likely see little reason to jostle their comfortable welfare state lifestyle over Russian aggression in a region none of them give a damn about. Merkel may want to “lead” the EU on this issue, but may cook her own political goose if she tries too hard to do so.
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