Despite the fact that Russia was unlikely to be able to hold onto its war of aggression in Ukraine for more than a few days after being in danger of losing all of its economic assets, the Russians continue to push on. Putin is not finished in Ukraine. It is crucial that we don’t let our guard down and assume that he is on his deathbed or that Russia is on the verge of economic collapse. We must resist the American temptation to get distracted by shiny new objects.
Putin claims he is only “just getting started”. We must therefore act quickly and accordingly. Companies and other entities that don’t comply with the rules will face severe, serious sanctions and harsh penalties. Ukraine should be able to dump more weapons and assistance into the country than it can handle. Just give it to Zelenskyy every time he asks for something on TV. You have no other option, except military intervention.
Unquestionably, the Russian flag has not been raised over Kyiv because of American-led efforts against Ukraine. This is despite the incredible grit and determination displayed by the Ukrainian people. If we fail to keep our eyes on the ball, and Putin is betting big that he will, we’ll be dealing with this in a way that only increases our pain and those of our allies.
Some people still believe that the current sanctions will eventually work. Perhaps. Perhaps. These are two examples that show that current sanctions don’t inflict the pain necessary to make this winnable, even if there are boots on the ground.
First, Russia’s declarations that it is capable of increasing and expanding its efforts. According to the BBC, “Russia’s military focus on Ukraine is not ‘only’ its east,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated Wednesday. He spoke to Russian state media and implied that Moscow’s strategy has changed since the West provided Ukraine with longer-range weaponry.” Russia would seek a face-saving strategy to end the conflict if sanctions were severe. It looked like Russia was looking for an exit strategy when sanctions first came down. However, the Ukrainians showed they can retaliate. Russia is speaking tougher than ever.
Second, the Russian economy has miraculously rebounded after we had been able to bank on it being toast. It’s the Western economies that are suffering. According to the AP, on July 18, 2022, there were signs of distress across Europe as Russia’s war with Ukraine drags on. However, Russia is benefiting from high energy costs fueled by the war. Russia is a major oil exporter and has an agile central bank that has years of experience living under sanctions. This has stabilized the ruble and helped to maintain inflation despite economic isolation.
Only comprehensive and well-executed sanctions can work. All parties must participate. All commerce with Russia must be stopped by all governments, corporations, individuals, et cetera.
Sanctions must be applied to everyone and enforced. While they have taken some hits, the Russians have modified their business practices to be able to comply with current sanctions. They are exploiting the weaknesses in the sanctions regime to make ends meet. To make up for the West’s losses, they sold more oil to India or China. To build the Russian military, they are using the cash generated by these sales at higher global prices. So on. Fortune reported last week that Putin had been working for this moment for many years.
Companies from Western countries who continue to do business with Russia despite sanctions can be and should be penalized. Airbus is one example of a company that has large U.S. government contracts. It doesn’t want to be penalized because it loves the cheap Russian titanium. Airbus spokesmen said that sanctions on Russian titanium “would not harm Russia” because only a small portion of Russia’s export revenues are affected. They would severely damage Europe’s entire aerospace industry.”
Let’s get rid of the obstacles that are preventing us from stopping Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. We also need to redouble our efforts to support our friends. It will be helpful to have more weapons and assistance. While more sanctions would be wonderful, we don’t have to put them in place yet. We can, however, impose some discipline so they are fully enforced.