Crippling sanctions aren’t enough – Here’s what needs to be done to stop Putin

It’s not enough.

The impressive supplies of defensive weapons to the Ukrainian military, while crucial to the country’s remarkable resistance and resilience, were not enough to stop Putin’s increasing airstrikes on civilian targets and urban centers.

The unprecedented economic and financial sanctions against Russia, while historic in their scope and scope, were insufficient to deter President Vladimir Putin from escalating his brutal war against Ukraine.

They are not enough.

The unexpected transatlantic and international unity — including a UN General Assembly resolution 141-5 demanding Putin end his war and withdraw his troops — has not deterred Putin. What greater sign could there be that Putin has made himself an outcast than the quartet that voted with him: Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea and Syria?

Yet that is not enough.

Too many countries in the world keep looking away. A full 35 nations at the United Nations abstained from condemning Russia, hoping that Putin’s ugliness would pass without forcing them to take a stand against this international crime.

The efforts of the United States and some of our international partners to shame Chinese President Xi Jinping into withdrawing support from Putin’s war machine have also failed, although no country’s actions can do more at this point. to save lives and end the war.

Putin got the Chinese go-ahead for his invasion of President Xi in their 5,300-word statement when the Beijing Winter Olympics began, saying their relationship knew “no boundaries”. Putin kept his part of the bargain – he didn’t invade until Xi’s Olympics ended. Xi does not yet seem willing to distance himself from Putin in any meaningful way.

What the civilized world has done so far to respond to Putin’s invasion is a remarkable show of unity. The Biden administration deserves credit for releasing information about Putin’s plans early, focusing the story and blame where it belongs, then bringing the world together.

Europe’s combined actions against Putin are particularly impressive, given its proximity to Moscow and its reliance on Russian energy. Germany has done more in a weekend than in the previous two decades to counter Russian revanchism: undo a ban on arms sales to Ukraine, significantly increase defense spending to 2% of GDP and a special spending plan of $100 billion for the Bundeswehr in its 2022 budget.

If all that remains insufficient to change Putin’s course, the only responsible choice is to do more and quickly: more sanctions, more military support, more international unity.

There are two compelling reasons why.

The first is humanitarian: Putin’s relentless airstrikes on Ukrainian civilians have sparked Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.

The second is the historical imperative: the need to reverse a global trajectory through which brutal authoritarianism or bloody chaos could shape the global future.

“Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has ended the Americans’ 30-year vacation from history,” writes Robert M. Gates in the Washington Post, applying his perspective from eight US administrations, including stints as Secretary of Defense and CIA director. “For the first time since World War II, the United States faces powerful, aggressive adversaries in Europe and Asia seeking to reclaim lost glory with claimed territories and spheres of influence. … Putin’s war has provided the cold shower needed to awakening democratic governments to the reality of a new world, one in which our recent strategy is woefully inadequate to meet the long-term challenges we face.”

It is enlightening and stimulating to see Putin’s war against Ukraine in these terms, not as a dangerous episode, but as a groundbreaking challenge.

With that in mind, what needs to be done?

The Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security provided some actionable military ideas through a survey of 37 leading national security experts. They rated them by weighing the positive benefits against the risk of escalation.

The best of the lot included:

  • Sending more of the armed drones that Ukrainians are already using so successfully.
  • Providing “turnkey” electronic warfare, including satellite navigation and communications jamming equipment, would increase Ukraine’s ability to disrupt and delay Putin’s advance.
  • Enhance Ukraine’s critical short-range air defense capabilities through more ground-based, close-in weapon systems to better defend against Russian aircraft and missile attacks.

In addition, I am also in favor of a partial no-fly zone over the westernmost provinces of Ukraine, close to the Polish, Slovakian, Hungarian and Romanian borders. One can understand why the US and NATO are rejecting a no-fly zone over all of Ukraine, but in Western Ukraine it is a humanitarian necessity, it is easier militarily because it is closer to the western air bases and it would show our determination towards Putin .

At the same time, the US, Europe and their global partners must contribute to the impressive array of sanctions against Russia.

Their impact so far, write Brian O’Toole and Daniel Fried of the Council, “has been to flatten the Russian financial system, crash the ruble, fuel a likely sovereign bankruptcy and likely put the Russian economy into a depression.” to bring.”

But as Putin’s forces continue their assault, targeting civilians and turning urban centers to dust, O’Toole and Fried offer a menu, in ascending order of impact, of the following steps:

  • An extension of sanctions against Putin’s cronies and subordinates.
  • Extending sanctions against more banks and key companies (they propose Gazprombank, Russian Agricultural Bank, AlfaBank, Sovcomfort, Russia Railways and the diamond company Alrosa)
  • Blocking the Russian government by imposing sanctions on all Russian state-owned companies.
  • If all else fails, a full financial embargo will be imposed that would ban all transactions, exports and imports with Russia.

There is no doubt that Putin will continue to escalate if more is not done to stop him.

“I think Putin is angry and frustrated right now,” CIA Director William Burns told the House Intelligence Committee last week. “He will probably double down and try to take down the Ukrainian army without regard for civilian casualties.”

Putin has lost: he will never be able to fully pacify and occupy Ukraine, and he has inflicted generational damage on Russia, whose power and prestige he was determined to build. However, his opponents did not win. Saving Ukraine and supporting their new common purpose is key to shaping the global future.

To achieve that, what has been achieved against Putin so far is remarkable, but still insufficient.

Frederick Kempe is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Atlantic Council.