The site of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash in Donetsk, July 17, 2014.
Maxim Zmeyev / Courtesy Reuters

In recent months, the United States and the EU have ratcheted up diplomatic and economic pressure on Russia in response to its activities in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Although the United States has hit major Russian companies with significant sanctions, the EU has remained decidedly more hesitant. It took the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 17, purportedly by Russian-supplied separatists, and Russia’s increased involvement in eastern Ukraine in the weeks thereafter, for the EU to even begin matching its threats with real action. 

The EU’s reticence is understandable; the union’s countries are some of Russia’s main trading partners and rely heavily on Russian energy exports. This attitude has nevertheless drawn the ire of U.S. policymakers, many of whom believe that Europe’s hesitance is indicative of a general unwillingness among the United States’ transatlantic allies to punish international aggression. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.)

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  • STUART GOTTLIEB is Adjunct Professor of International Affairs and Public Policy at Columbia University, where he is also a Member of the Saltzman Institute of War & Peace Studies. ERIC LORBER is an attorney at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP.
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