LISBON, Portugal — Media reports compounded the anguish in the Netherlands on Monday with the information that the Russian company that exports missile systems of the type suspected of downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 operates an Amsterdam office in order to profit from Dutch international tax loopholes.
"Supplier of the MH17 rocket sits in Amsterdam's Zuidas," said a headline in the daily De Volkskrant, referring to the Dutch capital's business district.
The paper cited a report from an investigative website that says an office in Amsterdam is linked to the Russian conglomerate Rostec, whose complex web of subsidiaries includes the arms exporter that sells BUK anti-aircraft missiles.
Russian companies and their oligarch owners are among the most enthusiastic users of Dutch fiscal laws enabling international businesses to recycle profits and avoid national taxes.
Tens of billions of Russian dollars flowing through the Netherlands — and other fiscally relaxed European Union countries such as Cyprus, Luxembourg and Ireland — go some way toward explaining why the EU is finding it so difficult to impose hard-hitting sanctions against Moscow.
EU officials will try again on Tuesday. This time, several leaders are insisting that the outrage over MH17 means they'll finally have to take meaningful action against Vladimir Putin's regime.
"It is time to make our power, influence and resources felt," British Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday.
"Russia cannot expect to keep on enjoying access to European markets, European capital, European knowledge and technical expertise while she fuels conflict in one of Europe's neighbors," he told parliament in London. "We must do what is necessary to stand up to Russia."
Cameron said French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with him that Tuesday's meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels should set tougher sanctions in place.
However, it's not clear that they will back Cameron's specific proposals. They include an arms embargo on Russia, widening asset freezes and travel bans on individuals to include "cronies and oligarchs" close to Putin, and so-called "third-tier" sanctions that would target sensitive sectors of the Russian economy.
France in particular has been reluctant to consider an arms embargo as it prepares to hand over two high-tech Mistral warships to Moscow under a $1.65-billion contract. Around 400 Russian navy operatives arrived in France in June to begin training on the first of the ships.
Merkel on Sunday joined voices suggesting France should suspend the contract, and Cameron said it would be "unthinkable" for Britain to consider making such a delivery to Russia under the current circumstances.
However, in recognition of French reluctance, it's expected the proposals for an EU arms embargo to be debated Tuesday will exclude existing contracts.
Since the downing of the Malaysian airliner with the loss of 298 people, Cameron has emerged as the loudest voice calling for a tougher EU approach toward Russia, joining hawks such as Poland, Sweden and the Baltic states.
Britain had previously held back, cautious about the $46 billion worth of Russian stock invested in London, British energy investments in Russia's oil and gas fields, and "Londongrad's" role as the playground of choice for big-spending Russian tycoons.
Cameron dodged a question about that Monday, saying only that a crackdown on Russians' access to London's financial center was something that should be considered and would not hold back a stronger EU stance. His finance minister, George Osbourne, insisted Britain is prepared to take an economic hit to put pressure on Putin.
Among the other backers of a tough line, Lithuania said it wants Tuesday's meeting to blacklist Russian-linked separatists in eastern Ukraine as terrorist organizations, a move that could have serious implications for their backers in the Kremlin.
There are doubts, however, over how far others are prepared to go in taking Putin on.
Hollande has stressed that decisions should be made only after an international inquiry has ascertained full details of what happened to the plane. The Italian government has limited itself to saying Europe must have a united position.
Germany's main business lobby had warned the day before the missile strike about the impact of additional sanctions that were already under discussion by the EU. It noted German exports to Russia had already fallen by 14 percent in the first four months of 2014 — to $13.5 billion.
However, the mood in Germany has hardened. German media are calling for soccer's governing body FIFA to reverse a decision to hold the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte appears to have joined the hawks after the slaughter of 192 Dutch citizens aboard the flight. "All political, economic and financial options are on the table against those who are directly or indirectly responsible," he said over the weekend.
Until last week, the Netherlands had been one of the EU countries most wary of confronting Putin.
The Dutch have worked hard to woo Russian business: 2013 was declared Dutch-Russian Friendship Year, harking back four centuries to when Czar Peter the Great took inspiration from the Netherlands to modernize the Russian Empire.
Human rights violations were overlooked as Putin was invited to the Netherlands and the Dutch royals headed for a state visit in Moscow.
King Willem-Alexander was back in Russia in February. While human rights and Ukraine led many Western leaders to boycott the Sochi Winter Olympics, the Dutch monarch knocked back Heineken with Putin and Rutte attended the opening ceremony.
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"There has been a lot of hypocrisy in the Dutch attitude to Russia," says Michiel van Hulten, a Brussels-based consultant on EU affairs and former chairman of the Dutch Labor Party.
"They ... refused to take any measures that would damage economic relations," he said in a telephone interview. "Dutch society is now being confronted with those double standards and it's clear which way things are going to go because this is a kind of 9/11 for the Netherlands."
Sympathy for the Dutch, van Hulten added, could see Italy, Germany and other soft-line EU members joining the Netherlands in toughening their stance on sanctions.