The EU approved dramatically tougher economic sanctions today against Russia, followed swiftly by a new round of US penalties targeting key sectors of the Russian economy. The coordinated sanctions were aimed at increasing pressure on Vladimir Putin to end his country's support for separatists in Ukraine whom the West blames for shooting down a Malaysian passenger jet. President Obama and US allies also warned that Russia was building up troops and weaponry along its border with Ukraine. "Today Russia is once again isolating itself from the international community, setting back decades of genuine progress," Obama said. "It does not have to be this way. This a choice Russia and President Putin has made."
Europe's actions were particularly significant given that the continent has a far stronger economic relationship with Russia than the US does. Until this week, the EU sanctions had lagged behind American penalties. The new European penalties include an arms embargo on Moscow and a ban on the unapproved sale to the Russians of technology that has dual military and civilian uses or is particularly sensitive, such as advanced equipment used in deep-sea and Arctic oil drilling. Among the new US targets were three major Russian banks: the Bank of Moscow, Russian Agricultural Bank, and VTB Bank, Russia's second largest bank. (The US also says Russia violated a key Cold War arms treaty.)