July 28th, 2014
04:44 PM ET

What I'm reading: Sanctions and Russia’s Achilles heel

By Fareed Zakaria

“But even by hinting as to what sectoral sanctions might look like, Obama has upset Russia’s economic calculations. Obama is often criticized for not backing up the ‘red lines’ that he draws. But in Ukraine, Obama essentially has drawn a ‘gray line’ – demanding Russia take certain actions to end the crisis,” writes William E. Pomeranz for Reuters. “No one knows when this gray line is crossed, however. So these new sanctions only heighten the uncertainty – and risk – of doing business in Russia.”

“The market responded immediately, with dramatic declines in the Russian ruble and the Moscow stock market. In addition, the sanctions only exacerbated an already difficult situation for Russian companies. Syndicated loans for Russian commodities producers are down more than 80 percent over the past six months. The appetite for Russian bonds has also decreased considerably in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis. So the current round of sanctions made a bad situation worse.”


“Arab leaders, usually prodigal in their outpourings of ritual solidarity with the Palestinians, have been curiously silent,” writes David Gardner in the Financial Times. “Partly that is because Saudi Arabia, Egypt and their allies are so hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is the Palestinian chapter. It is also because the ferocious Syrian war, and lightning surge of Sunni jihadis from Syria into Iraq, eclipses what for many looks like a new episode in a wearisomely familiar feud. Paradoxically, Israel wants to weaken but not overthrow Hamas – the cynical military expression is ‘mowing the lawn.’ For beyond Hamas lies the unbridled savagery of movements such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), which already has followers in Gaza and the Palestinian refugee camps up and down the eastern Mediterranean that serve as universities of jihad.”


“Raqqa is a test case for ISIS, which imposed itself as the ultimate authority in this city on the Euphrates River early this year,” writes Ben Hubbard in the New York Times. “The group has already proved its military prowess, routing other militias in Syria as well as the Iraqi military. But it is here in this agricultural hub that it has had the most time to turn its ideology into reality, a project that appears unlikely to end soon given the lack of a military force able to displace it.”


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soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Igor

    Before Malasyan plane was shot down there was a prolonged intermission by CNN/BBC in reporting on Ukraine civil war. Zakaria was also quiet for a while. The fact that plane was directed through region of war where several planes were already shot down just underscores the fact that international community was largely ignorant of what is going on in Ukraine and did not take it seriously. The civil strife in Ukraine is not new. Ukraine region of Kiev is a starting point of Russia back in early middle ages. At the times of Ukraine/Russia origin both regions were ruled by same knights. Separation took place when rulers settled more towards northern areas. Whatever was called Ukraine in 17-th century voluntarily incorporated itself into Russia. Conflicts within Ukrainian population about disagreements on whether to be separate or part of Russia were going on and off from the time Ukraine/Russia can trace its history. One of the more notable episode was a war between Peter the Great and Ukranian insurgency at Poltava (early 18-th century, when Swedish king sided with insurgents). About 10 million ethnic Russians live in Ukraine; about 3-4 million Ukrainians live in Russia. Uncountable (millions of people) families have both Ukrainian and Russian sides. Ukraine never had an experience in independent statehood until 1991, when Soviet Union broke up. After revolution in 1917, the Bolsheviks organized a republic of Ukraine as part of Soviet Union. In 1920’s large parts of land (present day Estern Ukraine where civil war is going on) were transferred administratively from Russian Federation to Ukraine. This resulted in major Russian population in Eastern Ukraine. In 1954 Crimea was transferred from Russian Federation to Ukraine.
    The present outburst of conflict was a result of many factors: 1. Mulfunctional state of Ukraine 2. Lack of agreement about degree of participation in European Union 3. Nationalistic riots 4. Concern of USA about Russia becoming stronger politically, economically and militarily over last 10 years, and therefore desire of US policy-makers to have leverages in the regions close to Russia. 5. Interference of the USA and support to Ukraine’s politicians who usurped the power in Kiev back in February 2014.
    What now? Airplne tragedy just provoked international attention. Thus, one should be aware that more than 1000 civilians were killed in Eastern Ukraine during this civil war by now. Ukrainian army continues firing on civil area in hope to intimidate and suppress resistance. The Ukrainian army sustains major casualties. There are protests in Kiev and Western Ukraine against sending soldiers to fight in the east. The economy is crumbling as Ukraine cannot sustain the costs of war on its own. Ukraine is asking USA for military and economic help. If this help comes Russia will upgrade its participation in defending revolting regions as Russia cannot afford to let Ukraine become a province of USA militarily and economically. The USA is trying to get Europe more tightly involved in economic sanctions. Interestingly, England who will suffer least (it does not import gas from Russia) is screaming the loudest tunes. Should US send military and financial help it will put enormous costs on US economy as Ukraine was collecting all sorts of help for last 25 years with most of it ending up in pockets of corrupt politicians. What can be done? First, do not assume that Putin is aggressor. So far, he responded to a situation as a leader who cares about national interests of his country. Crimea had referendum, and naturally Russian majority decided that it is time to have Crimea as part of Russia again. They live in peace now, unlike Russian-speaking population in Eastern Ukraine. The only way to end this conflict is for USA to start serious negotiations with Russia and Ukraine, and stop giving illusion to Ukraine’s politicians that USA and Western Europe will solve their problems.

    July 28, 2014 at 4:55 pm |
    • Ferhat Balkan

      Thank you for the long and boring Russian propaganda. The whole world knows who the aggressor is. Putin has invaded Crimea and Eastern Ukraine in what he considers 'Novorossiya". Even after worldwide condemnation and sanctions, he still refuses to stop pouring mercenaries and weapons into Crimea. He is a war criminal.

      July 28, 2014 at 8:15 pm |
    • George patton

      Good posting, Igor. I'm sick and tired of seeing all these right-wing idiots here parroting the U.S. Government!!!

      July 29, 2014 at 12:32 am |
    • Rojm

      Thanks Igor. This is all about the military industrial complex. The complex is leaving Afghanistan in Dec. 2014. Ukraine is the next stop for this complex. Hopefully the whole world will notice this pattern and protest these developments. The military industrial has to stop this behavior. The world is tired of these endless wars. We are all one. No others, no demonizing governments or people any more. There is no reason for it anymore, we are all interconnected now through the internet and mass communication.

      August 6, 2014 at 8:27 am |
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        October 9, 2014 at 9:05 am |
  2. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    Regardless of any praise given to Putin's leadership, my trust is in that of our President Obama, who is certainly not a wanton maker of war, but by preference a man of peace.
    When Obama takes a strong stand for what he thinks is right, I admire him the most, and I fully support and applaud him.

    July 28, 2014 at 5:23 pm |
  3. chri§§y

    Im with you on that @ Joey! And i have to wonder...if you move to another country, shouldnt you at least have enough respect...and common sense, to speak the language of that country? And i would think if russians living in Ukraine didnt wanta be considered Ukrainian they would move to Russia??

    July 28, 2014 at 5:45 pm |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @ chrissy,
      As easy as it is to "pick up" the language of a country in which one is residing, many human beings insist that it is beyond their ability.
      Some Americans in Rome would starve to death in a pizzeria.

      July 28, 2014 at 6:13 pm |
  4. bobcat2u

    I will most definitely echo your sentiment @ chrissy and @ Joey. We've had ample opportunity to get involved in new wars, but due to the easy going nature of our president, which I admire, we've been able to watch from the sidelines.

    July 28, 2014 at 6:02 pm |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      Ciao, @ bobcat.
      Right you are. I hear harsh criticism of Obama all the time from citizens who have failed to grasp even that one important accomplishment of the President.

      July 28, 2014 at 6:18 pm |
  5. chri§§y

    Lol @ Joey, i know! Thats one of my biggest pet peeves here! Why cant they speak english if they want to live here! Just seems to me that it would be a prerequisent! I know if i were going to another country i would wanta speak the language at least! And yea you hear everyone against war but then in the very next breath, theyre calling him a wimp for not retalliating! Wth? My view...it takes a stronger man to walk away from a fight then to engage in one especially if you dont have a horse in that race!

    July 28, 2014 at 6:29 pm |
  6. chri§§y

    Where's one of bobcats world wide famous jokes when you need one? Lol and @ bobcat, javier said to tell you hello and hes glad you didnt give up on cnn, cuz he still tune's in just to read your funnys! Lol

    July 28, 2014 at 6:50 pm |
  7. bobcat2u

    "George W. Bush walks into a bar.
    "Gimme a beer," he says, "and do you have any games?
    "There's a pool table on that side," the bartender said while pointing, "and a dartboard in that corner."
    Bush paid the bartender for the beer, and walked over to the other side of the bar.
    Two minutes later, he came back to the bartender.
    "Something wrong?" the bartender asked.
    "Well, I found the pool table all right," Bush replied, but in the corner there were just some darts and a mirror."

    July 28, 2014 at 7:46 pm |
    • Ferhat Balkan

      Should've replaced those darts with some good ol' cowboy boots! 🙂

      July 28, 2014 at 8:17 pm |
  8. bobcat2u

    Two proctologists are discussing their most baffling cases.One proctologist tells the other one about the time he put his hand into a patient and pulled out a large bouquet of flowers.The other proctologist looked really amazed and asked, "Where did those flowers come from?"The other proctologist answered very cooly, "How should I know. There wasn't any card!!"

    July 28, 2014 at 7:56 pm |
  9. bobcat2u

    This guy wants to be a proctologist, and he wants to be a really good proctologist, so he decides to go down to the morgue after class and practice a little. Well, he uncovers the first guy and there is a cork in his butt! He thinks it's a little strange, so he pulls it and music starts playing!
    ".. . On the road again, just can't wait to get on the road again...". The guy really freaks out! He runs and gets the M.A. and drags the poor guy back to the table. "Look!" he says, and pulls the cork out again, ".. . On the road again. . . "
    The M.A. is totally unimpressed..."So what?" he says.
    "Isn't that the most amazing thing you've ever seen?", the guy asked.
    "Are you kidding?" says the M.A. "Any as shole can sing country music!"

    July 28, 2014 at 7:59 pm |
  10. bobcat2u

    A man went into the proctologist's office for his first exam. The doctor told him to have a seat in the examination room and that he would be with him in just a few minutes.
    Well, when the man sat down in the examination room, he noticed that there were three items on a stand next to the doctor's desk: a tube of vaseline, a rubber glove, and a beer.
    When the doctor came in, the man said, "Look Doc, this is my first exam... I know what the vaseline is for... and I know what the glove is for... but what's the BEER for?" At this instant, the doctor became noticeably outraged and stormed over to the door.
    The doc flung the door open and yelled to his nurse, "Come on, nurse!!!... I said a BUTT LIGHT!"

    July 28, 2014 at 8:04 pm |
  11. chri§§y

    Lolololol that was an awesome response @ Ferhat to the most awesome joke @ bobcat! Just what the dr *ahem* proctologist ordered!

    July 28, 2014 at 9:00 pm |
  12. chri§§y

    Superman says hi too, btw lol.

    July 28, 2014 at 9:02 pm |
  13. stuart

    My fellow Americans, I use this forum as one way to reach the American people. I will accept the democratic nomination to run for the presidency of the United States of America. I promise you this: I will convert our national debt of many trillions to a surplus. I will halt all illegal immigrants invading our land. And I promise you this. The employment rate will drop to 5% or less.
    A vote for me is a vote for America.
    Thank you.

    July 28, 2014 at 9:38 pm |
  14. bobcat2u

    Hello Superman and Javier. Don't often hear about you guys anymore. But i'll try to keep up my part of the bargain with the jokes.

    July 28, 2014 at 9:39 pm |
  15. chri§§y

    Lol they both laughed at that. Theyre trying to convince me that i need to move to Utah! Lol YUK!

    July 28, 2014 at 9:44 pm |
  16. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    This anti-Russian propaganda never seems to end, showing just how many idiots there are blogging on this web page. Did any of these fools ever go to High School? It doesn't appear that way!

    July 29, 2014 at 12:21 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      Yes, @ My Troll, I am a very big fan of Russia, but only as it was under Czarist rule.
      I am also a very big fan of the USA as it was before Marxism came here.

      July 29, 2014 at 1:32 am |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

        I would be a fan of the U.S. government except for the fact that there's too much corruption in Washington D.C., Joey. Just look at how the war lobby has the majority of Congress plus the White House in it's pocket. This is why we're involved i all these useless and unnecessary wars. Why are we butting into Ukraine and why do we support the Neo-Nazis in Kiev?

        July 29, 2014 at 9:05 am |
  17. Frieden und Real Politik

    Russia owns great and powerful banks in Europe, supplies energy and has various stakes in business. Mr.Obama cannot sell one 'Cadillac xts' because he does not have any dealerships. Mr.Putin is strong and power in EU – Obama not. Europeans are not gonna listen to Obama.

    July 29, 2014 at 7:21 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      Let's hope you're right, Frieden und Real Politik.

      July 29, 2014 at 9:07 am |
  18. Wir sind eine Flasche ...

    und fertig. Mr.Obama failed, has not enough power. President PUTIN is the winner, has oil, gas, money. Europe does not need one Obama-style poor and hopeless guy.

    July 29, 2014 at 9:37 am |
  19. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    President Obama does not build the Cadillacs. Since I would not buy one, how can I expect Europeans to buy them?

    July 29, 2014 at 10:17 am |
  20. chri§§y

    And im SICK of a fat a s s TROLL parroting the same garbage under several names (usually stolen names) and calling everyone else STUPID! At least we have the nads to post under our own names! You dont see us posting under Jeff Roem now do you???

    July 29, 2014 at 10:19 am |
  21. chri§§y

    Spot on @ real Joey! Lol they werent big on education and responsibility where he (the troll) lived were they lol.

    July 29, 2014 at 10:23 am |
  22. ilia

    Great my comments are blocked 🙂

    July 29, 2014 at 4:23 pm |
    • George patton

      That happens to me too, Ilia. I don't know whether they don't like my posting in support of Vladiimir Putin or my condemnation of the Neo-Nazis in Kiev. I know I'm right!!!

      July 29, 2014 at 5:45 pm |
  23. ilia

    Or I see thats because I put a link from RT about Ukrainian army killing people at nursing home. Go to RT site to watch it. This is result of US financed regime change in Ukraine. CNN doesn't want to show this. Instead they talk about "intelligence data" released by the US. Igor thank you for educating our American friends that have to watch so called "news". CNN should have been doing what you did over here.

    July 29, 2014 at 4:29 pm |
    • George patton

      Good posting, Ilia. Just ignore these uneducated pro-Washington lemmings here. They all must be Tea Partiers!!!

      July 29, 2014 at 5:48 pm |
  24. chri§§y

    @ilia do you mean the 5 at the retirement home? Because the only thing i could find about a medical facility was when the seperatists shot that nurse.

    July 29, 2014 at 5:15 pm |
  25. chri§§y

    MYOB @ George Patton...i was simply asking a question because i could NOT find the story ilia was talking about! I wasnt saying anything negative to ilia...UNLIKE YOU! And im very educated thanks! Educated enough that i dont call people names and i think the real "tea partier" here is YOU because you sure are infatuated with all things tea party! The next time you wanta bash me, remember this...STFU!!!

    July 29, 2014 at 7:08 pm |
  26. ilia

    Yes I was talking about 5 eldery people killed in the nursing home, few of which in their wheelchairs !!! Its really horryfiyng picture. I'm not that emotional usually, but I felt like crying watching this.

    August 1, 2014 at 4:59 am |
    • Joseph McCarthy

      You shouldn't be at all surprised, Ilia. The Neo-Nazis in Kiev have no scruples. These people put no value on the lives of others. Moreover, it's a distinct possibility that the Neo-Nazis could have shot down flight MH-17 themselves and have it blamed on the eastern rebels. As everyone can see, t played quite well into the hands of both the Neo-Nazis in Kiev and the right-wing thugs in Washington!

      August 1, 2014 at 11:17 am |
  27. ilia

    I really recommend watching Russia Today for all those watching CNN just to see opposite point of view

    August 1, 2014 at 5:00 am |

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