#170: Sanctions Against Russia Are Working – And Need to Be Even Stronger

It seems that virtually everybody agrees that sanctions are not working, and that we should reconsider as they obviously have not yet stopped the war against Ukraine. And it certainly is true that right now, Russia seems undeterred.

But we need to look a little deeper and listen to what Russia is actually saying. Before the war, the threat of sanctions was laughed away. And some sanctions the world over have had little of the effect we had hoped for – but, in all honesty, most sanction packages are much smaller than those imposed on Russia currently, and many sanctions are circumvented after a time. But somehow, Russian officials are no longer laughing. Putin, Lavrov, Peskov have already complained bitterly, most recently about Lithuania enforcing EU sanctions on what trains passing through its territory can deliver to Kaliningrad.

The sanctions are a mid- to long-range effort, aimed at three things: (1) hampering the ongoing Russian war effort by making it difficult to resupply, (2) post-war, making it difficult for Russia to maintain the status quo of its criminal regime and re-arm quickly to try again, and – most importantly – (3) to put a destructive price tag on what Russia is doing.

The West is not waging economic war against Russia, or any war of any kind. The West is merely helping – as permitted by international law – a country that is being viciously attacked by a country conducting genocide against their neighbor. How is this genocide? Easily: Putin, Lavrov and other Russian officials have admitted to it frequently: They are intent to eradicate Ukraine as a country, eliminate Ukrainian identity, and destroy the Ukrainian people – and they are behaving as such. All of those elements fall within the genocide convention. Every day, Ukrainian infrastructure is destroyed, Ukrainian civilians and soldiers murdered, Ukrainians tortured and deported to Russia.

The West is not bombing Russian cities. Russia is not under attack (and Crimea and the Donbass are NOT Russian). Russia was warned sanctions would follow. Russia chose to attack. It chose its punishment, and it is still continuing.

If anything, sanctions need to be stronger so that this insanity – unleashed by Russia – can finally end.

Russia needs to withdraw from all occupied territories, needs to be punished for its genocidal war, has to restore deported Ukrainians to their homeland, and pay reparations to restitute Ukraine. It’s that easy. Russia can stop the war at any time of their choosing. And yes, Russia needs to suffer for its crimes.

Some like French President Macron argue that Russia should not lose face. Others say that any negotiation needs to put something on the table, and Ukraine needs to surrender something – probably territory – to make peace possible.

This seems reasonable on the surface, but it is simply wrong: Putin and his fellow officials have admitted and explained that their aim is to destroy Ukraine, that Putin sees himself as a new Peter the Great and wants to resurrect the Russian Empire, drive the United States out of Europe, destroy the EU, destroy NATO, and establish a Russian-controlled empire from Lisbon to Vladivostok. His actions have proven this, and it is only due to Western support of Ukraine and sanctions against Russia that his plan has not fully worked out as intended. Let’s remember that Brexit was also based on Russian agitations, that Russia has supported several neo-fascist and neo-Nazi movements in Europe and the United States in the past, that its propaganda machine (RT, Ruptly and others) has deliberately sowed doubt in Western democracies, and that all this supports Putin’s neo-fascist model of government. Putin’s Russia is not interested in a few pieces of land in Ukraine, it is interested in global domination, brought about by his war on the West.

Russia is also not interested in negotiations or peaceful cooperation. To a fault, the West has cooperated with Russia for decades, even after they waged war against Georgia in 2008 and started waging war against Ukraine in 2014. Legions of politicians visited with Putin before the war to convince him to seek peace. Instead, he refused to withdraw troops from the Donbas (a requirement for the Minsk peace negotiations), held on to fraudulently gained territories in Crimea and the Donbas, even brought Belarus under his control. He refused to talk with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Russia wants conquest, wants genocide, not peace, not negotiations.

Russia is already losing face through what it is doing. It would regain some of its dignity if it stopped the war and paid penance. Ukraine, as the victim, should not have to make any concessions at all. For those like Henry Kissinger claiming that the “realist” position demands a compromise, and that small powers would simply have to bow to larger ones, remember what his policies have wrought in the world. Christopher Hitchens may well have been correct when saying that Kissinger should be tried “for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offenses against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture.”

The West is not a place. It is an idea, however badly executed, to which belong the principles that genocide should never be possible again, that civil liberties and democracy are necessary to further human dignity, and that the strong have to assist rather than to exploit the weak. Again, I am aware that these principles are often violated by the West itself – but does that mean we should ignore and forego them, rather than to make sure that we actually live up to them? If we – not just the West, but all countries opposed to such violations of human dignity – give in to Putin’s Russia now, we will inherit a world none of us would want to live in.

Ceterum censeo Ucrainam esse defendam. Слава Україні!

(This post was edited on 7/17/2022 as pertaining to Hitchens’ judgement about Kissinger.)