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viernes, 12 de septiembre de 2014


U.S. and European Sanctions Take Aim at Putin’s Economic Efforts

WASHINGTON — The United States and the European Union moved on Friday to shut down Western aid to Russian deepwater, Arctic offshore and shale oil exploration, broadening and deepening the range of sanctions imposed on Moscow in retaliation for its intervention in Ukraine despite the potential cost to Western firms like Exxon Mobil and BP.
With twin announcements in Washington and Brussels, the new measures targeting Russia’s energy development came in addition to further limits on access to American and European capital markets, making it harder for Russian banks to obtain any credit in foreign capitals beyond short-term loans. The United States specifically targeted Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, for the first time.
The Europeans also banned travel by and froze the assets of 24 more individuals, including Russian lawmakers and others who have supported President Vladimir V. Putin over Ukraine, while the Americans blocked the assets of five Russian state-owned defense technology firms. Also targeted was the Russian defense conglomerate Rostec and its leadership, even as its subsidiary plans to build energy plants in Crimea, the autonomous Ukrainian region that was annexed by Moscow this year in an action still rejected by the outside world.
The measures were enacted despite a fragile cease-fire between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian government forces that took effect last week in eastern Ukraine, and officials on both sides of the Atlantic emphasized that they could be rolled back if Russia took more significant moves to settle the violent dispute there. European Union officials specifically plan to review their sanctions before the end of the month and could revise them if the peace holds.
European leaders agreed last month to impose new sanctions on Russia, but held off putting them into place amid calls by some countries to wait to see how the cease-fire played out. But the European Council, a body representing European Union members, cited the “gravity of the situation” in a notice in its Official Journal announcing the measures on Friday, and said it “considers it appropriate to take further restrictive measures in response to Russia’s action destabilizing the situation in Ukraine.”
The cumulative impact of the measures was to take aim at the heart of Mr. Putin’s project to reshape and revive Russia’s flagging economy through the development of Chinese-style state capitalism. The sanctions targeted a raft of financial, defense and industrial companies in the vanguard of Mr. Putin’s push to replace the wild free-market capitalism of the 1990s with state-led development.
In Moscow on Friday, the main stock market index, the Micex, rose 1.25 percent as details of the latest round of sanctions became public, as the European measures, at least, were less severe than expected, allowing the grandfathering in of technology transfers under existing oil contracts.
As such, the market perceived the sanctions, again, as more a warning than a blow to the oil industry, economic analysts said.
Addressing the new sanctions for the first time on Friday, Mr. Putin called them “illogical” and accused Western leaders of trying to derail the peace process in eastern Ukraine, according to Russian news agencies.
“I don’t even understand what these present sanctions are related to,” Mr. Putin told reporters after a meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional political and security group that includes Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. “Maybe someone does not like that the process has moved toward a peaceful scenario.”
In trying to shut down energy development in the Arctic, the United States and the European Union went after a pet project of Mr. Putin and a close associate, Igor Sechin, chief of Rosneft, the largest Russian oil company. It grew into a global giant in part by taking over most of the assets of Yukos, a private company whose billionaire chief, Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, was arrested in 2003 and held in prison until last year. Exxon Mobil, in partnership with Rosneft, began drilling just last month in the Kara Sea off Russia, a joint project that the Kremlin hailed as the most significant fruit of Russian-American cooperation since the end of the Cold War.
Previous sanctions banned Western companies from providing high technology for Russian deepwater, Arctic and shale exploration, but the new measures announced by the United States on Friday also prohibit the export of goods and services in support of exploration or production in those areas. The American measures apply not just to future contracts but to existing interactions, and the Treasury Department gave American firms until Sept. 26 to wind down any current activities. The European Union, by contrast, did not apply the new restrictions to existing projects in the Arctic and elsewhere in Russia.
Exxon Mobil executives said their lawyers were looking to see if their current oil and gas production in Russia would be affected. Aside from Arctic drilling and other exploration for future production, Exxon Mobil participates in a consortium on Sakhalin Island to produce oil and gas.
“We have to look at what was issued today by the U.S. and E.U. and determine how it affects us,” said Alan Jeffers, a company spokesman.
Russia is heavily dependent on American and European assistance in developing new energy sources. American officials said the new measures were not intended to curtail current production of oil but to make clear to Moscow that its energy future would be severely curtailed unless it changed course. The officials acknowledged that the moves might harm American firms as well, but said that they fashioned them to minimize that.
“As in all of the sanctions steps we have taken,” Jacob J. Lew, the Treasury secretary, said in a statement, “we have designed the actions announced today to deliver significant pressure on the targets of our sanctions while safeguarding, to the extent possible, global financial markets and the global economy.”
The new round of sanctions significantly ratcheted up restrictions on the Russian financial sector and prohibited American and European entities from issuing new debt with a maturity of more than 30 days to targeted Russian banks, energy companies and defense firms. That tightened the debt-financing limit, which was originally set at 90 days over the summer.
The banks targeted by the European measures are the same as those subjected to an earlier round of less severe restrictions in July, including Gazprombank and Sberbank. The oil companies include Rosneft, Transneft and Gazprom Neft, and the defense groups were identified as Oboronprom, the United Aircraft Corporation and Uralvagonzavod.
The United Aircraft Corporation is another of Mr. Putin’s economic favorites, set up in 2006 to corral a diverse group of struggling defense and civilian aeronautic enterprises into a new market-oriented but state-led conglomerate. The company’s best-known venture in recent years has been the development of a new midrange commercial airliner called the Superjet. But the project has been dogged by financial, technical and other problems, including a crash during a 2012 demonstration flight in Indonesia.
The United States targeted Gazprombank, Bank of Moscow, the Russian Agricultural Bank, Vnesheconombank and VTB Bank, while adding Sberbank to the sanctions list. The United States also banned new debt of greater than 90 days’ maturity for Gazprom Neft and Transneft.
Limiting big Russian banks and other firms to 30-day loans could cause a credit crunch as early as December, when $25.1 billion in Russian foreign corporate debt matures, Ivan Tchakarov, the chief economist for Citigroup in Russia, said in a telephone interview.
The Kremlin would then need to dip into windfall oil funds to bail out companies. Russia has about $470 billion in foreign reserves, which would cover all foreign debt maturing over the next two years, Mr. Tchakarov has estimated.
The European sanctions unveiled Friday included asset freezes and travel bans on Igor V. Lebedev, a lawmaker in the Russian Parliament, for supporting the annexation of Crimea; on Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a belligerent, ultranationalist member of Parliament, for supporting the use of armed forces in Ukraine and for calling for the division of that country; and on Aleksandr Zakharchenko, a separatist leader in the Donetsk region of Ukraine.
Also included on the list was Rostec’s director general, Sergei V. Chemezov, described in the Official Journal as a “known close associate” of Mr. Putin who, like the president, served with the K.G.B. in East Germany before the collapse of Communism. The United States had previously sanctioned Mr. Chemezov, but on Friday went after his company, cutting off Rostec’s access to medium- and long-term debt in the United States.
At his news conference, Mr. Putin responded to the travel bans with characteristic bravado, saying he was pleased that more Russians would be unable to travel in the West because they should spend more time at home. “The less our officials and corporate executives travel abroad, the better,” he said.
With the latest additions, there are now 119 individuals on the list of those subject to travel bans and asset freezes by the European Union.
President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine said from the capital, Kiev, that the new sanctions were an endorsement of his country, particularly given the economic problems that Europe faces.
Despite strong vocal support from Europe and the United States, and the high profile of the crisis at a NATO summit meeting in Wales last week, Ukraine has not received much tangible economic or military aid.
Ukraine is expected to ratify an association agreement with the European Union on Tuesday. Given that the country’s efforts to extract itself from Moscow’s orbit led to a separatist conflict, Mr. Poroshenko said it would be impolite for the European Union not to move to the next step, known as “accession partnership” and intended as a possible path to membership in the European Union.
The Ukrainian president is scheduled to meet with President Obama in Washington on Sept. 18, and has said he will seek a security alliance with the United States outside the framework of the Atlantic alliance. Although the United States has pledged $70 million in aid, and has dispatched military advisers to the country, the aid has been slow to arrive.
The United States has yet to take a public stance on such an alliance.

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