Russia’s lower house of parliament voted to officially annex Crimea, a move the upper house is expected to follow up with today completing the process of annexation under Russian law. This formal annexation makes it increasingly less likely Crimea will ever be returned to Ukraine. Ukrainian forces have already started to withdraw from the region.
The US government’s response has been to place sanctions on Russians believed to be aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin:
On Thursday, the U.S. slapped asset freezes on four businessmen linked closely to Putin as well as on a Russian bank that provides them support. If Putin does not back down over Crimea, as most expect, those sanctions could broaden further in coming weeks.
Russia’s economy was already weak going into the crisis, expanding only 1.3 percent last year. For this year, forecasts for growth of about 2 percent have been written off altogether, with Putin’s adviser Alexei Kudrin expecting no growth at all.
Someone may have forgotten to tell the US government that unlike in the West, the rich don’t own the government. So while the rich might not be happy about it, Putin doesn’t answer to them.
Of course if the US and the EU – who also issued sanctions – were really serious they would take on their own oligarchs. Exxon Mobil is now involved in a $500 billion energy deal with a Russian state-owned enterprise. Are sanctions coming?
The odds of Crimea returning to Ukrainian control seem to be getting increasingly slimmer. Is sanctioning Putin allies the only plan? If so, it seems the the US and EU don’t have a real plan to get Crimea back to Ukraine.