Escalating in the Wrong Direction
Washington, D.C., February 23, 2022
Tags: Foreign Affairs , Ukraine
The situation with Russia continues to be very tense, and still escalating in the wrong direction.
For months, Vladimir Putin has been positioning massive levels of troops and military equipment along Russia’s border with Ukraine. And for months, the United States (and most of the world) has responded to this growing threat with words, not actions.
In eastern Ukraine, there are two regions that are primarily controlled by pro-Russian separatists. On Tuesday, Putin ordered Russian troops into those regions. The Kremlin said it was for “peacekeeping functions,” which of course is ridiculous. Russia is essentially saying, “These areas of Ukraine are aligned with us, so we’re going to go ahead and move troops in.”
Any way you slice it, that’s an invasion.
In response, President Biden FINALLY levied a small set of sanctions on Russia yesterday. But they are quite limited in scope, primarily targeting the regions Putin just invaded, while trying to make it harder for the Russian government to raise money by selling its debt. Meanwhile, other nations have now issued their own sanctions against Russia, which are also quite limited.
Here’s the problem…
Biden promised that if Russia invaded Ukraine, there would be crippling economic sanctions. Well, Russia has now invaded – albeit regions controlled by pro-Russian separatists – but Biden’s sanctions are far, FAR from crippling.
Truly crippling sanctions against Russia could involve some really draconian measures, including cutting them off from the global financial markets. It is likely Biden sees this invasion as only “minor” at this point, so perhaps he’s holding back additional sanctions until the full invasion happens.
I’d argue sanctions should have begun long before now. Sanctions should have begun as soon as it became evident that Putin was preparing for an invasion. That’s because sanctions take time to work. It can often take weeks – even months – for the effects of sanctions to be felt throughout their economy. For most sanctions to be effective, they need to be proactive, not reactive.
It’s also important to remember that America is no longer operating from a position of strength here.
Biden has already capitulated to Russia earlier by removing sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany. If completed, that pipeline would have only furthered Europe’s dependence on oil from Russia. Fortunately, Germany did the right thing a few days ago and halted the certification of this pipeline.
Meanwhile, Biden has weakened America’s energy production by revoking permits for our own pipeline, Keystone XL. He’s also placed moratoriums on oil & gas production on federal lands, and implemented other bad policies which have made the U.S. more dependent on foreign energy.
Biden has refused to hold Russia accountable for the malicious Colonial Pipeline hacking attack last May, which was the work of a Russian organization. And he continues to reward Putin’s behavior by elevating him on the international stage with summits and high-profile meetings.
Then there’s the Administration’s horribly botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. Literally hundreds of critical details were overlooked or ignored by the White House. Russia has no reason to respect America’s ability to ~prevent~ conflict if this is the extent of our competence while ~withdrawing~ from conflict.
And, of course, Putin knows about our domestic problems over the last year, most notably inflation at a 40-year high, millions of illegal immigrants streaming across our border, and spikes in violent crime. Ultimately, if you’re Vladimir Putin and your desire is to invade Ukraine, America used to pose a significant obstacle to that. Not anymore.