President Barack Obama and the European Union have unloaded on Russian President Vladimir Putin big time this week. He had it coming.
And while there's no guarantee of a positive outcome, the united front against Russian aggression is a welcome development.
On Sunday the United States released photos showing that artillery on Russian soil had fired on Ukrainian territory, more evidence showing that Russia is behind the Ukrainian civil war.
On Monday an international court in The Hague said Russia owes $50 billion to shareholders in Yukos, the oil company it nationalized in 2005. If Russia complies, it will lose a large part of its foreign exchange reserves. If Russia resists, it could lose offshore assets.
Also on Monday, President Obama persuasively accused Russia of illegally testing a long-range cruise missile between 2008 and 2011. The missile is forbidden under a 1987 treaty struck during the fading days of the Cold War, and American defense officials said the United States will probably take compensatory measures to restore the nuclear arms balance in Europe.
President Obama took his time to raise the issue, hoping to preserve a dialogue with Russia on nuclear arms control. But the recent deterioration in American-Russian relations because of Mr. Putin's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine, and his ongoing support for Ukrainian separatists, finally convinced President Obama to act more forcefully.
On Tuesday, that shift was even more fully demonstrated when Mr. Obama joined the European Union in imposing strong new sanctions on the Russian economy. The new measures, a major expansion of ones President Obama put in place shortly before the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukrainian rebel territory, are aimed at several Russian enterprises - banks, a defense firm and the sale of advanced technology to energy firms.
Meanwhile, international aviation experts were still saying Wednesday that they are being denied access to the site of the MH17 crash, where they hope to gather evidence of the cause of its destruction. A consensus of experts point to an advanced Russian anti-aircraft missile controlled by the Ukrainian rebels. Russia's failure to pressure the rebels to cooperate with the investigation and to help secure the site fuels suspicion that it has something to hide.
Ideally, President Putin will respond to this increasing international pressure by agreeing to cooperate with the Yukos shareholders, the Ukrainian government and the international community. Such acquiescence would be a welcome admission that he went too far in seizing Yukos and in grabbing Ukrainian territory.
But Mr. Putin's track record casts serious doubt on that reaction. Instead, there is a real risk that he will feel cornered and lash out. That could include cutting off energy supplies to the EU.
But while some of Mr. Putin's advisers are reportedly urging him to sever all ties to the West and pursue a narrow nationalist course, Russian business interests oppose that reckless option.
President Putin has clearly driven himself and his country into a corner.
Just as clearly, though, President Obama and the EU have sent Mr. Putin - and Russia's powerful business interests - a necessary message of Western resolve.
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