President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that the United States and Europe are imposing tougher sanctions on Russian’s energy companies and banks, as Russian forces become more involved in Ukraine’s civil war.
“Today Russia is once again isolating itself from the international community, setting back decades of progress,” Obama said in an afternoon speech on the South Lawn of the White House. “This is a choice that Russia and President Vladimir Putin in particular have made.”
“Scores of Ukrainian civilians continue to die needlessly every day,” because Russia is supporting ethnic-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, he said.
The showdown with Russia “is not a new Cold War. It is a very specific issue … [of whether] Ukraine can chart its own path,” Obama said in response to a reporter’s question.
“The situation in the Ukraine ought to be resolved diplomatically. If Russia continues on its current path, the costs on Russia will continue to grow,” he said.
European countries have been reluctant to intensify economic sanctions on Russia, because the sanctions would damage London’s banking system, French trade and German energy supplies.
So far, Russia’s economy has been modestly damaged by the sanctions, but Putin’s polling support remains very high because of his policy of supporting the ethnic Russians in the Ukraine.
The increased focus on Russia follows the July 17 shoot down of a Malaysian airliner, which changed course to fly over the battlefields in eastern Ukraine. The aircraft was destroyed by a Russian-supplied missile battery, which was earlier used to fend off ground-attacks by Ukrainian fighter-bombers.