Europe's announcement of sectorial sanctions against Russia is welcome news. Russian President Vladimir Putin's continued aggression in Ukraine should not go unanswered by the international community. Over time, this latest round, which affects military, financial, and oil sectors will surely bite. Whether they will change Putin's calculus in the short term, however, is far less certain. In fact, Putin's moves to date signal his intentions loud and clear. Far from seeking options for a face-saving de-escalation, Putin is posturing for more military intervention.
The latest reports from U.S. intelligence suggest that Russia has not only been supplying a steady stream of high-end weapons and training to rebels in Ukraine; but they are also firing artillery from across the border. As former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul plainly observed, "Instead of using [the Malaysian Air crash] as a pretext for ending this war, he seems to be doing the opposite, doubling down."
This should really not surprise us. Just because many of us think it would be unwise for Putin to continue to escalate this crisis, does not mean that he won't do it anyway. Buoyed by Russian domestic public opinion, Putin has demonstrated remarkable resolve in the face of increasingly tough sanctions and isolation from the international community. The fact that escalating the conflict or even invading Ukraine may not be in Russia's long-term interests is beside the point. If we continue to try to predict Putin's behavior based on what we think is "wise" versus what he is actually doing, we will continue to be surprised.