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Global Economy

How tough are the new EU sanctions against Russia really?

The new sanctions against Russia have divided the EU: a majority believe the sanctions are slowly crippling Russia's economy, but for others they are not painful enough to deter Putin from further aggression.

Under pressure from France, Germany and Italy, concerned about their business deals, the EU has not exercised the nuclear option: ending Russia's access to the international payment system SWIFT — a mistake, analysts say.

If Russia were no longer able to actively participate in the international financial system, it would have major consequences, says Fabian Zuleeg from the European Policy Centre. It makes it very difficult to operate financial institutions inside Russia and effectively cuts the country off from external funding. It would have been a step that would have helped.

Also not affected by the sanctions: oil and gas imports – which means that Moscow's main source of income remains intact.

So removing SWIFT and energy – for now – from the sanctions package means banks can still finance oil and gas sales and Putin still has money for his military.

Instead, the European Council opted for sanctions that impose costs on Russia in the medium term but do not bite the country immediately.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said these sanctions would take effect over time. They would not stop Russia's actions in Ukraine at the moment, but they signaled fundamental changes in EU-Russia policy.

The sanctions affect about 70 percent of the Russian banking sector. Export bans affect semiconductors and Airbus spare parts, for example – as a result, Russia's airlines suffer from a technical deterioration of their machines.

All in all, the sanctions are intended to lead to a steady decline in living standards, which EU leaders hope could fuel popular discontent and threaten Putin's regime from within.

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