It was only a few short weeks ago when European and U.S. leaders were threatening Russia with supposedly crippling sanctions should they annex Crimea. A few weeks later and Russia has followed through with its annexation of Crimea, but now Western leaders are faltering with their promised sanctions.

Russia vs. U.S.

So far, the European Union has failed to levy any serious sanctions against Russia out of fear that said sanctions could affect their already weak economy. At the same time, the U.S. appears unwilling to contain Russia, at least on its own.

European Union: big talk, little action

One of Russia’s strongest critics has been the European Union, and for good reason. The instability in Ukraine that eventually led to Russia’s invasion was caused when Ukraine began to gravitate towards the European Union. After pressure from Russia forced Ukraine to back off, protesters took to the streets and eventually toppled the government.

Immediately, EU leaders promised that Russia’s actions would not go unpunished. The EU also promised billions of dollars in aid and assistance for Ukraine. While aid may still be forthcoming,  the European Union’s discussed wide-scale sanctions against Russia appear to be off the table.

EU leaders have acknowledged that they likely won’t pursue sanctions that will hurt the EU’s economy. With most EU economies already on shaky ground, European leaders simply aren’t in the position to risk damage to their economies. The EU relies on Russia for natural gas and other major resources, and the two countries are major trade partners.

U.S. looking to take target approach

Obama had some strong words for Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. As of now, however, the administration does not appear to be looking to install any wide-scale sanctions against Russia or take any wider actions.

The administration has thus far limited its sanctions to targeting wealthy Russian individuals and supporters. Obama has promised further sanctions against Russian industries and companies if Russia escalates its actions against Ukraine and has thus far not left anything off the table.

Russia hitting back with sanctions

Russia has been responding to sanctions and “black lists” against its officials with sanctions of its own. Russia recently released a list of travel bans against some U.S. officials, including the outspoken John McCain. Those U.S. leaders who have made their way onto the list have largely brushed it off and a few are even claiming to be “honored” to be on the list.

Russia has also promised “asymmetrical warfare” against the United States should sanctions escalate further. While Russia didn’t elaborate much on what this means, the speculation is that it could try to sabotage nuclear talks with Iran and interfere with other international affairs.