Western sanctions against Russia appear to have done little to influence the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine.
But while the United States has targeted some of President Vladimir Putin’s close allies, the European Union has largely only gone after lower-ranking officials directly connected to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.
These numbers help show why there’s so little appetite to confront Putin.
1. $39.717 billion
That’s the amount of money that flowed into Russia in 2012 from the Netherlands, Ireland, Cyprus and Luxembourg, according to the most recent data from the Russian Central Bank. The data show those four small European Union countries represent more than three-quarters of foreign direct investment into Russia, dwarfing contributions from major economies such as Germany and the United States.
Although the Dutch, Irish, Cypriots and Luxembourgers bristle at the term “tax haven,” much of the cash heading to Russia is believed to be recycled by Russian companies and rich individuals taking advantage of the European countries’ generous fiscal arrangements for foreigners.
It’s not just Russians. An investigation by the Dutch newspaper De Volksrant last year found most of the world’s top corporations operate networks of letterbox companies in the Netherlands to avoid taxes back home. Still, the huge sums of Russian money flowing through may help explain those countries’ less-than-hawkish approach to sanctions.
The number of French shipyard jobs directly at risk should President Francois Hollande halt the sale of two high-tech warships to Russia. Unions estimate there are at least as many indirect subcontractor jobs also dependent on the deal, located in hard-pressed ports where work is in short supply.
Throwing so many out of work is not an appealing prospect for a president whose popularity ratings are languishing at record lows, largely due to his failure to tackle unemployment.
Moreover, Russia insists it will seek compensation if the $1.65 billion contract to build the Vladivostok and the Sevastopol (named for the recently annexed Crimea port — where it’s due to be based) aren’t delivered.
The first of the Mistral-class amphibious assault ships is due to arrive in Russia in October, the second in 2016.
In Paris, the government says it has time before any difficult decisions need be made.
However, 400 Russian sailors are due in France next month for training on the new ship, which can carry assault helicopters and landing craft.
On Thursday, US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said Washington has “regularly and consistently” expressed concern about the deal.
3. 100 percent
The level of dependence on Russian natural gas supplies among European Union members Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Estonia and Slovakia. Overall, Russia provides 34 percent of the gas used to heat homes, cook meals and power factories across the EU.
That gives Moscow powerful leverage. In 2009, when an earlier dispute with Ukraine shut down pipelines to Europe, residents of vulnerable countries were left shivering in mid-winter.
Many European states also heavily depend on Russia for oil, coal and even fuel for nuclear power plants — Russia supplies a quarter of the uranium used in the EU. Russian energy companies have also invested heavily in Europe, gaining influence over local power companies and entering into lucrative partnerships that Western giants like BP and Shell are loath to break.
Still, not all EU countries have been cowed by Russia’s grip on their fuel supplies. Lithuania and Estonia have been the most vocal advocates of a tougher EU line. Privately, officials from both countries are furious at the lack of backing from less exposed partners.
4. $10.6 million
That’s the average amount Russian clients pay for homes in swish London neighborhoods, according to one top-end realtor cited by The Economist.
There are plenty of other figures to illustrate why Britain is reluctant to alienate the oligarch immigrants who have found a bolt hole in “Londongrad.”
Overall, Russians are estimated to have shelled out $304 million for London homes last year. Since 2002, Russian companies have raised an estimated $406 on British capital markets. More than 50 are listed on the London Stock Exchange. Russian students number 2,150 in Britain’s posh private schools, where average boarding fees are a cool $15,500 a year.
Russians also make up the biggest group holding “investor visas” granting residency to foreigners who spend more than $1.7 million in Britain. They are said to make up 60 percent of clients at fancy London law firms, and spent $2 billion on getting banking advice in the city in 2012.
Concerns that those lawyers could be getting even more work are another reason why Europe, and Britain in particular, is holding fire on sanctions against Putin’s oligarch allies. Especially because individuals and businesses from Saudi Arabia and Iran have successfully challenged EU sanctions against them: Iran’s Bank Mellat, for one, is suing the British government for $4 billion in lost earnings.
The number of seats far-right and Euro-skeptic parties that openly support Putin are tipped to win in this month’s European Parliament elections. Although that’s only about 10 percent of the total number of lawmakers in the EU’s assembly, they represent a powerful and growing influence in a number of countries.
The French National Front, a vocal Putin apologist, is expected to become the country’s biggest representative in the European Parliament. In Britain, the UK Independence Party is also polling strongest. Its leader Nigel Farage has called Putin the politician he most admires. The Freedom Party, which is leading in Dutch polls, blames the European Union for the Ukraine crisis.
Putin has other backers on the far left, such as Germany’s Die Linke party. While there are signs uncertainly over the Ukraine crisis could see anxious voters turning back to the political center, Putin also has support with some notable mainstream politicians.
Former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and Germany’s ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder have been outspoken on Russia’s behalf. Schroeder reputedly earns $344,000 a year as director of a pipeline company pumping Russian gas to the West and was recently snapped giving Putin a hug at a St. Petersburg soiree. He remains an influential figure for many in the Social Democratic Party of Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
6. $87.8 billion
Russia spent that much on its military last year — the world’s third-highest defense budget after the United States and China. Putin has hiked defense spending by 108 percent since 2004.
US military spending rose just 12 percent during the same period, while among NATO allies, Britain’s fell by 2.4 percent, France’s by 6.4 and Italy’s by a whopping 26 percent. Putin also controls the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear warheads, estimated at 8,500.
Many in Europe — particularly in the south — see little interest in picking a fight with such a prickly born-again superpower over Ukraine, a country they view as remote and of little relevance to their struggle to recover from five years of economic crisis.