Europe Joins the Russian Sanctions Party

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, on July 17, 2014.

RIA Novosti/AP photo

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Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, on July 17, 2014.

Following President Barack Obama's lead, the European Union now forbids the sale of bonds, tanks, drills and, yes, the Ebola virus. By Jason Karaian

Ever since the annexation of Crimea in March, the US and others have urged Europe to get tough on Moscow, particularly since the downing of a Malaysia Airlines plane packed with Europeans over eastern Ukraine.

Today Europe got tough—at least, a good bit tougher than the travel bans and asset freezes it had previously imposed on a small number of Russian and Ukrainian people and firms. It announced new sanctions targeting the Russian finance, energy, technology, and defense industries, which will take effect almost immediately.

They apply only to new contracts with Russian buyers, which means France can, controversially, still deliver two warships to Russia under a 2011 deal. But there is plenty in the new measures (pdf) that will squeeze the already teetering Russian economy, given that the EU is Russia’s largest trading partner by far.

True to the glorious tradition of European bureaucracy (or for that matter any bureaucracy), the list of banned military and dual-use goods is enormous and insanely detailed. Here are just a few of the things that are now banned.

Finance

This is the simplest but possibly most painful of the new measures. It bans European companies from dealing in stocks and long-term bonds issued by state-controlled Russian banks, which captures just about all of the country’s most important lenders.

Energy

The list of energy equipment subject to sanctions is not yet available, but it’s likely to hew closely to an early draft report obtained by the Financial Times (pdf), which includes a variety of pipes, drills, and derricks. Export licenses will be rejected specifically for products intended for “deep water oil exploration and production, arctic oil exploration or production and shale oil projects in Russia,” according to the European Council.

Defense

Notwithstanding French-made helicopter carriers, the EU’s arms embargo on Russia includes all of the items on the bloc’s “common military list” (pdf). A small selection:

  • Sub-machine guns
  • Flame throwers
  • Depth charges
  • Sarin and mustard gas
  • Tanks
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles
  • Anti-submarine nets and anti-torpedo nets
  • Spacecraft specially designed or modified for military use
  • Laser protection equipment (e.g. eye and sensor protection)
  • Particle beam systems capable of destruction or effecting mission-abort of a target

“Dual-use” goods

This is where it gets really interesting. A tank is obviously intended for the military, but a wide range of goods and technologies serve both civilian and military uses. The EU’s 270-page list of dual-use items (pdf) now prohibited to sell to Russia for military means includes plenty of mysterious and arcane items, and more than a few items that you might not believe are traded at all, with anyone. Here’s a taste:

  • Nuclear reactors
  • Liquid rocket propulsion systems
  • Gas centrifuges and assemblies and components
  • Modular electrical pulse generators
  • Optical fibres of more than 500 meters in length
  • Flash X-ray generators or pulsed electron accelerators
  • A symmetric algorithm employing a key length in excess of 56 bits
  • Photographic still cameras specially designed or modified for underwater use below 150 meters
  • Viral live cultures, including Dengue fever, Ebola, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis
  • Animal pathogens, including avian influenza virus, foot and mouth disease virus, and sheep pox
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