While the White House has continually threatened further sanctions against Russia for non-de-escalation (even as it un-de-escalates itself), the specifics of the additional sanctions have been sparse. German CEO warnings over blowback from economic sanctions... the "nonsense" of replacing Russian gas with US gas... the Russian warnings of "interdependence" and "boomerangs"... all reduce the West's arsenal of financial sanctions. But, as The Times of London reports, perhaps the US has found a crucial pain point for Putin - a sanctions regime that would target Putin's personal wealth, which includes a reported $40 billion stashed in Swiss bank accounts.
The White House on Friday refused to comment on reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin's personal wealth could be targeted if the West were to move ahead with additional sanctions over Ukraine.
"I'm not going to get into foreshadowing particular individuals or entities that the United States may target," national security adviser Susan Rice told reporters at the White House. "But let me just say we've been clear that there are additional individuals, officials, close associates of senior leadership, oligarchs and those entities that they are associated with that remain very much potential targets of additional sanctions."
Putin's actual holdings are a tightly held secret, and the extent of his holdings are difficult to estimate. But a threat of trying to freeze the Russian president's personal assets could have played a role in a deal brokered Thursday by foreign ministers from the U.S., Ukraine, Russia and European Union.
Perhaps it is worth remembering Putin's response from last week's Q&A...
Putin was asked why the US can do whatever it wants and no one punishes them, while attempts are being made to punish Russia.
“The US is certainly one of the world’s leaders. At some point it seemed that it was the only leader and a uni-polar system was in place. Today it appears that is not the case. Everything in the world is interdependent and once you try to punish someone, in the end you will cut off your nose to spite your face,” he said.
Though we are sure Obama and his team have considered all the intended and unintended consequences of any such actions.