The US and Europe imposed new economic sanctions on Russia today, with President Obama declaring that Russian leaders must see that their actions supporting rebels "have consequences." Though the American and European sanctions were coordinated, they nonetheless exposed fissures in what the West has tried to project as a united front in its months-long effort to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin. Still, the penalties announced by the White House were its harshest yet, reports Reuters, targeting two major Russian energy firms, a pair of powerful financial institutions, eight arms firms, and four individuals. (The sanctions did not hit Gazprom, the world's biggest producer of natural gas.) Leaders in Europe, which has a far deeper economic relationship with Russia, were more restrained, ordering investment and development banks on the continent to suspend financing agreements with Moscow.
Even the US penalties stopped short of the most stringent actions the West has threatened, which would entail fully cutting off key sectors of Russia's economy. But officials said those steps were still on the table if Russia fails to abide by the West's demands to stop support for pro-Russian insurgents who have destabilized swaths of eastern Ukraine. "What we are expecting is that the Russian leadership will see once again that its actions in Ukraine have consequences, including a weakening Russian economy and increasing diplomatic isolation," Obama said as he announced the penalties from the White House. (Read more Russia stories.)