WASHINGTON: The United States has few economic levers it can pull to persuade Russia to pull its troops out of areas of Georgia as relations between the two big powers sour, analysts said on Friday.
Republican presidential hopeful, Senator John McCain, has called for tough action against Russia after its troops occupied separatist regions of US-ally Georgia and pushed into Georgian territory in the past week.
US President George W. Bush earlier Friday called on Russia to honor its pledge that it would withdraw its forces from Georgia amid frenzied diplomatic activity.
Russian troops and tanks poured into Georgia a week ago after the Georgian army launched an offensive to regain control of South Ossetia, the Moscow-backed region which broke away from Tbilisi in the early 1990s.
Analysts said, however, that it was unlikely that Washington will use its economic might to pressure Russia to withdraw its forces from Georgian territory.
"It's unlikely that the United States will impose any of the usual sanctions that are sometimes brought to bear on international miscreants," said Stephen Sestanovich, a Russian expert at the US Council on Foreign Relations.
Even if Bush wanted to apply economic sanctions against Moscow, it would be a complicated task with many hurdles, according to Blake Marshall, a senior vice president of The PBN Company, a business consultancy focused on Russia and the former Soviet republics.
"In a globalized economy you have to have uniform agreement across the globe in order for the sanctions to really reach their purpose. That's very difficult to achieve," Marshall said.
"Experience has shown the unilateral sanctions not only don't work, but they rather tend to punish the American companies," he underlined.
Any potential sanctions would also be complicated by the business and trade links between the world's largest economy and its 11th largest economy, and could affect Russia's vast energy exports to the West and the United States.
"The Russian economy overall is about oil. We have been trying to cut our oil-addiction in this country but we are not able to do it, and we could not effectively cut our imports of Russian oil," said Nina Hachigian, an analyst at the Center for American Progress think tank and a former National Security Council staffer.
Russia was the 20th biggest exporter to the United States and the 30th largest importer of US-made goods in 2007. It held around 1.4 per cent of all US foreign trade in June of this year, compared with China which holds 11.2 per cent and the European Union which commands 23.1 per cent.
"Sanctions are really the wrong way to approach the issue, because I don't think we could imagine to have all our European allies to agree those sanctions when they are more reliant on Russian oil and gas than we are," Hachigian said.
She suggested that it could be more effective to target sanctions at individual political leaders as Washington has done with respect to government leaders in North Korea and Sudan.
Garry Kasparov, a former Russian world chess champion, also raised the possibility of targeted sanctions in a Wall Street Journal editorial Friday. "The Kremlin's ruling clique has vital interests, i.e. assets, abroad and those interests are vulnerable," Kasparov wrote.
While economic sanctions are viewed as unlikely, the United States has sought to exert pressure on Iran over its nuclear ambitions, and implemented sanctions against Iranian companies and groups affiliated with the country's military.