As it warns Russia to step back from Ukraine or suffer another financial hit, the US is simultaneously trying to coax along a reluctant Europe, which is trying to balance its desire to punish Moscow against its fear of economic turmoil from the effects of a new, harsher round of Western trade sanctions.
Economists say the US risks appearing weak without support from Europe, which is Russia's largest trading partner and therefore has huge sway over Russia's already shaky economy. But Europe is far from ready to issue sanctions on Moscow that would undercut its own financial stability while risking its main source of energy.
The fate of new sanctions _ and how tough they might be _ depends on Moscow's next moves, and whether Russia deepens or pulls back its meddling in Ukraine.
President Barack Obama already has signed orders that would allow the US to sanction key Russian industries, and European Union foreign ministers will meet Monday to decide what new penalties should be issued if Moscow continues to ignore the West's warnings.
Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland told a Senate panel this week that current US and EU sanctions are ``biting'' and ``pinching'' the Russian economy, ``and we're now considering further measures.''
Nuland said Moscow has spent an estimated $25 billion to bolster the value of the ruble over the last five to six weeks since sanctions were introduced. Russia suffered more capital outflow in the first three months of 2014 than the $62.7 billon it lost for all of last year, she said.
“Russia is paying a very high price already for its actions, and that cost will go up if its pressure on Ukraine does not abate,'' Nuland said.
The next round of sanctions will likely merely expand the list of high-ranking Russians whose Western assets have been frozen and are barred from traveling to the EU or US
Last month, the EU sanctioned 33 individuals and the US sanctioned 31. The US also has barred American firms or individuals from doing business with Bank Rossiya, which has about $10 billion in assets and is owned by members of Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle.
On Friday, the Treasury Department issued sanctions against seven Crimean separatists and a Crimea-based gas company for undermining the government in Kiev. Additional US sanctions targeting Russia's energy, metals and mining sectors also have been prepared in what Treasury Undersecretary