Russia's primary response to the first round of Western sanctions against politicians and business leaders tied to Moscow's occupation of Crimea: laughter, mixed with razzing President Obama over Twitter.
When Obama and European leaders upped the ante on Thursday, freezing the assets and travel opportunities of more than a dozen billionaires and officials close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, plus one bank, Moscow banned nine members of U.S. Congress and Obama aides from entering Russia. It was America's turn to chuckle.
Russia isn't laughing. On Thursday, "Russia's most powerful businessmen waited for over an hour" in Moscow to meet with Putin, whose decision to annex Crimea "has cost their companies hundreds of millions of dollars in market value," says The Associated Press' Nataliya Vasilyeva. And "when Putin finally showed up, he spoke to them for five minutes — and gave them no reassurances that they or their companies will get any respite from the uncertainty created by the takeover of a piece of land of little value to them beyond national pride."
Russia's stock market has fallen 10 percent this month, its economy's modest growth forecast has been cut to zero, the ruble has weakened, and two of the big three credit rating agencies — Standard & Poor's and Fitch — just switched Russia's credit outlook from stable to negative, citing the slowing economy and threat of sanctions.