Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, and the Chief of Gen. Ivan Buvaltsev, right, watch a military exercise near St. Petersburg, Russia, on Monday.(Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev, RIA-Novostny via AP)
Luigi Serenelli and Oren Dorell, USA TODAY
BERLIN - The raft of travel bans and assets freezes against Russian officials by the West fail to go far enough to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to change course on Crimea, analysts say.
"The sanctions aren't particularly harsh, so they could be harsher," said Andrew Wilson, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations in London.
"There are also broader economic measures that could be taken, particularly and most obviously to affect the Russian energy export of gas," he said. "Europe isn't going to stop buying Russian gas overnight, but it's been buying rather less recently."
European foreign ministers and Washington agreed Monday to impose bans on travel to Europe and the USA and asset freezes against 21 officials from Russia and Ukraine after Crimean authorities claimed the peninsula's independence following a disputed referendum Sunday.
Ministers from the EU member states met Monday to discuss the consequences of the vote, which was largely condemned as illegal by the international community.
"We want to underline very clearly that there is still time to avoid a negative spiral and to reverse current developments," Catherine Ashton, EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said Monday. "We call on the Russian leadership not to take steps to annex Crimea and instead to take steps to de-escalate the crisis."
The sanctions targeted "Russian government cronies," high-level Russian officials, including ideologues who advocated and helped orchestrate the seizure of the Crimea by Russia, according to the State Department. But it is Europe that may also be vulnerable to counter sanctions threatened by Moscow.
Since 2000, European Union member-states have reduced their production of energy, making the continent more dependent on external sources such as Russia, which is the biggest source for supply of coal, crude oil and natural gas to the EU, according to European Commission data from 2010.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, suggests the United States loosen restrictions on the export of liquefied natural gas to Ukraine and Europe to blunt energy blackmail by Moscow.
"Diminishing Russia's economic leverage over the region should be a key component of America's response," the foundation said.
Andrew Weiss, a White House expert on Russia and Ukraine under former president Bill Clinton, said the West must consider passing sanctions that will hurt.
"There's not enough bite in the package," he said. "You have to ask yourself what's the purpose and it's not clear."
Yaroslav Pylynskyi, director of the representative office of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a policy research institute in Kiev, agreed that the sanctions announced Monday would not move Putin.
"I think there should be very strong and clear sanctions against Russian capital around the world, that should show that if they want to live in a civilized way, they should behave in a civilized way," Pylynskyi said.
Wilson said the EU could prevent the Russian North Stream pipeline from benefiting from exemptions under the EU energy package, or slowing the building of the South Stream pipeline through the Balkan states.
The sanctions are "pin pricks," says John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under former president George W. Bush.
"This is a reflection of U.S. and European weakness and the Russians will read it that way," he said.
Bolton said Putin is following a strategy to expand Russian influence in the space of the former Soviet Union, whose breakup in 1991 Putin has described as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century."
"He's weighed the costs and benefits. He's moving and we're not," Bolton said.
Bolton said sanctions are unlikely to work because the issue for Russia is strategic and not economic. The USA and its European allies should announce a clear path for Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO and speed up the process, Bolton said.
"If they don't, they call into question the continued viability of NATO," he said. "Ask the poles how happy they would be to have Russian vassal state (Putin's goal for Ukraine) on their border."
Analysts say that if Russia does move to take more of Ukraine then the EU and the U.S. may need to think about further action.
"If Russia moves very quickly to annex Crimea or if it moves north into eastern Ukraine, then clearly further action is needed," Wilson said. "At the moment, I don't see that Putin is deterred from taking either step."
Military intervention has not been considered an option by President Obama or Brussels. Ukraine is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European-U.S. defense and security organization.
"Ukraine needs the support of NATO, but also I think it needs the support of all civilized world, because this is the re-arrangement of the world order after the second World War," Pylynskyi said.
Weiss said the White House has "a huge mess on its hands."
"We're looking at major shockwaves in terms of Russia's stance toward Ukraine. Targeted sanctions against a handful of ideologues in Moscow is not what's needed for an event of such importance," he said.
Weiss said any discussion of a military solution in Ukraine requires "a lot of suspension of disbelief," yet the interim government is fragile, and includes no major players from Eastern Ukraine so the country is at risk of breakup.
"No one wants to go to war," Weiss said. "Russia has endless resources and tools to destabilize the country and take additional territory and the West is talking about visa bans."
Dorell reported from Washington.