Vladimir Putin has ignored Western demands that he cease arming and supporting pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. As such, he shares responsibility for the shooting down of MH17. It is now time for Europe to take tough action.
While the West initially imposed but mild sanctions and demanded a policy of de-escalation, Putin repeatedly escalated the conflict while vociferously proclaiming his irreproachability. He continually insisted that he wasn’t behind the separatists. This web of lies, propaganda and deceit has now been exposed.
The ties between Putin and the separatists are not difficult to see. While it may not be possible to completely control the men in eastern Ukraine — that is a problem faced by all who engage in proxy warfare — Putin armed them and he can curb their activities. All demands that he do so have thus far been ignored. Even after the murder of 298 innocent civilians, there has not been a word of contrition or dissociation from Putin.
Europe can no longer continue as before. The agreement among the European Union’s 28 member states to impose severe sanctions on Russia was the right move. Among the measures proposed is a boycott of Russian banks as well as a ban on exporting arms and energy technology. It is now crucial that EU member states this week actually enact the full range of measures to put a crimp in the Russian economy and, should it become necessary, to broaden them.
Demanding tough measures to force Russia to back down is not akin to being a warmonger. The only one who has fanned the flames of war in the Ukraine without constraint and who, since the annexation of the Crimea peninsula, insists on gambling with peace in Europe is the president of Russia. It is imperative that Europeans exhaust all non-military means of bringing pressure to bear on Moscow. The goal is deterrence, not escalation, and for that to work, the measures must be credible.
To achieve deterrence, it is imperative that Europe act together and dispense with national selfishness. As long as France continues to insist on delivering warships to the Russians and the British continue coveting profits earned from Russian oligarchs, the EU will be unable to impress Putin. Germany’s government and business leaders deserve praise for their willingness to support severe penalties — even though they are sure to hurt German exports.