America, Europe stop pretending there has been progress in Ukraine

On Monday, European governments approved of a new round of sanctions targeting Russian interests, but they decided not to pull the trigger on them. A few European nations wanted to wait to see if the much ballyhooed ceasefire negotiations between Kiev and the pro-Russian “rebels” occupying portions of eastern Ukraine showed any signs of progress.

Those negotiations went nowhere and, despite some evidence that Russian force were pulling back from Ukraine, the supposed ceasefire between Kiev’s forces and those loyal to Moscow ever only existed on paper.

On Thursday, the United States and Europe gave up the ghost and agreed to implement a new round of sanctions against Russia.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said the bloc will implement the sanctions package as adopted Monday. The measures will reinforce steps taken in July restricting trade, commerce and financial links with Russia. The Kremlin has threatened to retaliate against any fresh pressure.

Mr. Van Rompuy said the bloc will carry out a “comprehensive review” of the implementation of the Ukrainian peace plan by the end of September.

Russia has promised retaliation for new sanctions, including the possibility that the Russian Federation would close its airspace to Western civilian airlines. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that imposing the necessity of bypassing Russian airspace “could drive many struggling airliners into bankruptcy.”

The Washington Post noted, however, that such a move would constitute Moscow cutting off its nose while probably inflicting only minimal economic damage on the West:

If Russia banned Western airlines, it would also face direct economic consequences. So far, Russia earns so-called “royalty payments,” which are comparable to taxes imposed on foreign airlines that want to fly over the country’s airspace. Although these payments are significant for the airlines, it’s still cheaper to pay them than divert flights away from Russian airspace. If European airlines were forced to change their routes, Russia would lose the royalty revenues. In other words: If Russia imposed sanctions on Western airlines, it would actually impose sanctions on itself, as well.

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