Russia’s economy must be ‘asphyxiated’
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/02/2022 (467 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As the brutal, unprovoked and wholly unwarranted attack on Ukraine continues to unfold, it has become increasingly clear that nothing could have been done to dissuade Russian President Vladimir Putin from unleashing it.
He is a man possessed — by the ruthlessness that percolates when absolute power corrupts absolutely, by feverish dreams of a reconstituted pre-1990 Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and, perhaps, even by an incrementally hardened belief in the absurdities of the anti-Ukraine propaganda his own government has spent years disseminating.
Even as Russian troops, numbering tens upon tens of thousands, were being encamped near the borders on three sides of Ukraine, many observers argued an invasion would not actually occur — that it all had to be nothing more than posturing on the part of an insecure dictator yearning for relevance, because not even Mr. Putin, as unhinged and unchecked as he is, could be crazy enough to engage in such self-destructive madness.
It seems the world vastly underestimated the depths of his depravity.
It is, indeed, madness, but of a sort infused with large measures of premeditation, tactical awareness and soulless disregard for the human costs of his compulsive geopolitical quest. After years of obsessing over the unjust tragedy that was the USSR’s dismantling, he was not going to be stopped from doing this; what remains now for the western world is to let him know in no uncertain terms just how much his murderous military incursion is going to cost.
Absent an imperative to respond with force in support of Ukraine, which is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), nations opposed to and horrified by Mr. Putin’s actions are left choosing among political, diplomatic and economic responses.
Harsh sanctions were imposed immediately after Russian troops were first dispatched across Ukraine’s eastern border, after Mr. Putin’s Feb. 22 declaration that the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk required “peacekeeping” assistance; those sanctions were multiplied when his true agenda became clear as the full-scale invasion trampled Ukraine’s northern and southern borders, as well.
That the significant sanctions imposed so far will deeply damage Russia’s economy is beyond question; so, too, is the reality Mr. Putin factored those costs into his plan for war and is willing to absorb them as part of the Ukraine-conquest bargain. He clearly cares not a whit how much the Russian public suffers as a result of his barbaric windmill-tilting.
Property seizures and the freezing of the financial assets of those in his wealthy inner circle might get the Russian president’s attention more effectively than garden-variety diplomatic threats. His grip on power depends to a large extent on their continued indulgence.
The sanctions that have been imposed, as impactful as they are, must be considered by world leaders to be not enough. Every avenue of consequence, from banking and technology to energy and transportation — including those that will create considerable inconvenience for, and require significant sacrifice from, the nations that impose them — must be explored, including the expulsion of Russia from the SWIFT banking/messaging system.
So, too, should the global community focus on Russian interests prospering abroad — including oligarchs whose lavish properties and obscenely oversized mega-yachts serve as a constant reminder of who has thrived under Mr. Putin’s extended corrupt rule. Property seizures and the freezing of the financial assets of those in his wealthy inner circle might get the Russian president’s attention more effectively than garden-variety diplomatic threats. His grip on power depends to a large extent on their continued indulgence.
In warning the world not to interfere with his invasion of Ukraine, Mr. Putin — the leader of a nuclear power — threatened “consequences you have never seen.” That’s the scorched-earth attitude that must inform the global response to his madness.
The sanctions must be immediate, uncompromising and, as described by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, aimed at “asphyxiating Russia’s economy.”