Oh, Vienna! Austria has convinced Brussels to temper its economic punishment against Russia for supporting separatists in the bloody Ukrainian conflict. The Russian banks VTB and Sberbank, which conduct their European business from Vienna, have been excluded from E.U. sanctions.
The special deal that Austria has negotiated for itself will not only please the Moscow bankers – several countries in central and eastern Europe also depend on the two Russian financial giants.
Specializing in traditional savers and borrowers, VTB and Sberbank have amassed deposits worth billions of euros in Austria, Germany, Hungary and across the Balkans. If the banks had been put on the sanctions list, it would have led to long lines of nervous depositors at office branches and possibly a dangerous domino effect. In light of the troubled financial sector in Austria and southeastern Europe, that would be sheer poison.