As the situation in Ukraine continues to escalate, there's been some concern as to whether or not any of the economic sanctions imposed on Russia in response by the European Union or the United States have any real teeth. In response to this David Böcking, a writer for Der Spiegel, says Merkel should push for harsher penalties, even if they hurt Europe as well.

Europe's reluctance to impose stringent sanctions on Russia stems in all likelihood from Russia's close trade ties to the region. Russia is one of the EU's biggest trading partners, third only to America and China, and it supplies most of the international block's natural gas resources. In Britain, Russian businessmen have extensive ties with the financial community, which may be why in a clandestine meeting, the Cameron government decided that any economic sanctions on Russia shouldn't take effect within the City of London.

Of course, Europe's close trade ties with Russia are precisely why such sanctions would have such a powerful effect on Russia. While America's trade with Russia is relatively insignificant, composing only a tiny percentage of overall trade for either country, the European Union has the ability to put a significant dent in Russia's economy, if it chooses to do so. The problem is just that Europe would (in the short term at least) suffer greatly as well.

I'd be interested to hear what our European commentators have to say about this. You're the ones who would be most affected by any sanctions imposed by the EU. What do you think of this?

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(Non-European commentators welcome as well, of course.)