US visa restrictions an attempt to prevent escalation

Secretary of State John Kerry talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a meeting to discuss the Ukraine crisis 6 March 2014 The US seems to have calculated that a threat of sanctions will not harm Secretary of State John Kerry's talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Mark Mardell writes

The West, in the shape of the EU and the US, is talking about tough action against Russia - but these are threats, not punishment.

They are intended to be a big rock hovering over the head of individuals, forcing them to question their next step in Ukraine.

The White House is being coy about who might be targeted - apparently a list of names is being prepared but right now it is a blank.

We know that the bank balance of the man most responsible for the crisis in Ukraine is not in America's sights.

Russian President Vladimir Putin isn't on any potential blacklist. It's others lower down the food chain who would take the hit.

Visas - and the EU travel ban - are a different story.

Both Ukrainians and Russians are having their US visas revoked. They will be told who they are, although the list won't be made public.

Officials say this is part of making Russia feel the costs of its action - there must be a penalty for the violation of Ukraine's sovereignty.

But this is mostly about the near future, not the recent past. It is not a response to the plan for a referendum in Crimea.

US President Barack Obama's first aim has to be to stop things getting worse - in particular to make sure there's no Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine.

The second aim must be to get Russia to talk to the government in Kiev about the Crimea - even if the Ukrainians decide to give it away.

Senior administration officials say today's move is a powerful, flexible tool that allows them to escalate their response to what happens on the ground.

They evidently calculate that a threat, rather than actual sanctions, will help, not hinder, US Secretary of State John Kerry's talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The EU's threat of "far-reaching" consequences of action in "a broad range of economic areas" is far less specific, and far weaker.

This will be blamed on the EU's difficulty in getting agreement.

In fact, while the Poles and the Baltic states might have wanted tougher action, Europe is united in its hesitancy. But the US has demanded, and got, them to join in the threats.

There may be more problems down the line if Russia decides to ignore the big rock and bets that they won't dare pull the lever.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    170 Mark

    As I said, we have issues, but some people on this board are like spoilt rich kids bemoaning the fact they can't have a perfect life while the kids next door are being beaten if they argue back against their parents.

    When 30% of an electorate can get someone into power, maybe the 40% not voting should look at that rather than complain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    Isn't it interesting that the EU were more than happy to offer the Ukrainian government a trade pact only a few months ago. After that offer was turned down, all of a sudden that same government became corrupt and unconstitutional and within weeks was, literally, under fire.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    The EU wishes to interfere in the Crimea?


  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    172 "one of the most left wing parties in the UK are the Greens & they believe strongly in "the decentralisation of society" - yeah the luxury of being a fringe party with no hope of power, you can say what you like. You can be sure if the ever got in they would immediately pass draconian legislation creating state monopolies and massive bloated public bodies to "manage" things they don't like.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    "Ukraine's interim PM says 'no-one in the civilised world' will recognise Crimea's referendum on joining Russia" -- BBC

    I'm in the civilised world, I will recognise Crimea's referendum.

    Who does this intrim PM think he is? He wasn't even voted in by his country, let alone representing "the civilised the world"!

    Go investigate the snipers in your custody first!

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    Its a strange world when the US helped fund the coup of a democratically elected leader of Ukraine ,which included the snipers that killed innocent people.
    Now they are telling Putin he is disregarding international law! Since when did the USA have any regards to international law?

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    I see the USA are up to there usual warmongering activities; sending fighters and a navy vessel to the area. This supoosedly 'to reassure our Eastern European allies'. Sorry, but I wouldn't find having those guys around particularly reassuring; especially as there usual MO is to shoot down friendly allies and innocents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    ..all left wing organisations love centralised State

    one of the most left wing parties in the UK are the Greens & they believe strongly in "the decentralisation of society" "nothing should be done centrally if it can be done equally well, or better, locally.", also devolution or independance for all regions, ending the Euro & a right for regions to opt-out of EU rules

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    162 "I have no particular liking or regard for Mr Putin but as a leader he puts the combined TW politicos in the shade and TW corporatized totalitarian regime has been rolled back ever so slightly, which is a good thing" - ha ha, yeah Putin's a real freedom fighter. Dearie me, some people are so ruled by prejudice and paranoia they will believe anything won't they.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    @168 UKStevie

    Just because we have a better standard of living, doesn't mean we should accept the sham Democracy or Capitalist system of screw over as many people as you can to get to the top.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    I don't trust the Russian government. They don’t like freedom of speech but after reading other comments and articles though, it doesn’t appear the West is showing their true political objectives.
    My feeling is to side more with the EU because 28 countries are discussing ideas and options, more democratic. But I’m sure I shall be enlightened soon!

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    I find some of the comments on here astonishing.

    Clearly there are issues with democracy, but I can't believe people in the EU/US would prefer to be under the rule of Putin with limited free speech and vote. How can people be happy that the tyrant is "bossing" EU/US around Absolute crazy.

    Crimeria should have a vote, but with international observers guaranteeting, not soldiers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    140. Mr_Sensible
    Maybe the new ones wont change the constitution to give them more power and money and are more prepared to do the best for country as a whole and not just themselves.

    141. John Fish
    Didn't see them going into Syria, so that pretty much makes that statement look a bit stupid and a typical overreaction.

    162. Diogenes of Sinope
    Ask any gay person if they feel that way about putin

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    163 "Really? ALL of them? And you evidence for this is? I do not think the words you used mean what you think they mean" - ah bless, nerve touched, if there is one thing bound to annoy a dyed in the wool leftie it's being reminded they have their own suite of unpleasant prejudices and they are ruled by them all the time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.


    Being of Polish origin, you'll probably know these facts:

    West Ukraine was part of Poland & is still anti-Russia

    Large number of young men from W.U. tend to protest in Kiev in the winter when farming and construction wind down

    W.U. wants to join EU as they see their Polish cousins get to travel and work in, say, London.

    Representing the nation? Think not.

  • Comment number 164.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    all left wing organisations love centralised State totalitarianism


    ALL of them?

    And you evidence for this is?

    I do not think the words you used mean what you think they mean.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    The responses and propaganda coming from "The West" (TW)(this idea of clique perhaps indicates where the real problem of world society lies) verge on the delusional. I have no particular liking or regard for Mr Putin but as a leader he puts the combined TW politicos in the shade and TW corporatized totalitarian regime has been rolled back ever so slightly, which is a good thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Beeb must be confused, as a wildly biased leftie organisation it loves Putin as all left wing organisations love centralised State totalitarianism but he is clearly being an loon here, so how does it spin the new? Never mind, have a couple of expensed Lattes and settle down with a Guardian before an afternoon nap to ponder exactly how Labour would want it disseminated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Tricky situation here. Crimea is due to hold a referendum on whether to secede while it is still part of the Ukraine. Maybe the Russian people should have a say as to whether they want the Crimea to become a part of Russia? I know plenty of people from the South of Ireland who don't want the North, surely it should not just be the people of Crimea who should decide whether to join Russia?


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