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The Ιnadequacy of Εconomic Sanctions

The cost of the war in Ukraine will undoubtedly be paid first and foremost by the people of Ukraine. They will pay through the destruction of their homeland, the sting of national defeat, the agonies of insecurity, and of course, there is the massive financial cost.

The people of Russia will pay some of the cost, however, as an invasion never develops as painlessly as it is presented by the generals in their war plans – something that America knows very well and Russia should also know from its invasion of Afghanistan.

In addition, some of the costs – and we hope it is only financial – we will all pay. An immediate cost is the increase in the price of oil and gas, which are Russia's main exports. The United States has made it clear from the beginning that it will not use military means to prevent Russia from invading Ukraine, and once this weapon was removed from the table, we have only two options: First, economic sanctions and, second, the reinforcement of the forces of Ukrainian resistance with information and military equipment, something similar to what Washington did in
response to the invasion of Afghanistan by the then- Soviet Union.

Now, regarding the economic sanctions: Unfortunately, Americans place too much value on the effectiveness of sanctions because the United States and Russia have different cultures and mindsets. In order for the economic sanctions to work, they must be so decisive that, they will damage not only the Russian economy, but
America’s too, triggering a major recession.

President Biden said the day before yesterday that, “I’m going to begin to impose sanctions in response, far beyond the steps we and our allies and partners implemented in 2014… And if Russia goes further with this invasion, we stand prepared to go further.”

These measures include depriving Russia of the ability to borrow on Western bond markets and blocking two of its banks and the families or their top officers from financial transactions with Western institutions. These measures are insufficient to force Putin to change his strategy. It is true that they will create some problems, but it must
be taken for granted that Putin has taken precautions and is not dependent on borrowing from the West.

For the sanctions to work, they must be able to cause the Russian economy to shrink so sharply that Putin is threatened with being overthrown. But such actions will also cause significant political costs for Biden and European leaders because Putin could stop oil and gas exports, raising their prices and further fueling inflation. There are no easy solutions – naturally, since Russia is a nuclear country.


I’ve been issuing presidential report cards in this space since January, 2010: the conclusion of Barack Obama’s first year in office.

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