“Putin must fail.” Those are the words of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The way to get there is through all-out economic warfare, not the weak sanctions and half-measures that have been imposed so far. All political, diplomatic, military and economic means, apart from a war with Russia, must be used in synergy to ensure that Ukraine continues to resist and Russia weakens and fails. Providing arms, supplies and intelligence to the Ukrainian Armed Forces is vital. But much more needs to be done now to wage an economic war to undermine Putin’s ability to continue that war.
We must reduce Russia’s state income by restricting its trade with the West. Every day, the US, UK and EU buy more than $700 million worth of oil, gas and other commodities from Russia. Some of Russia’s largest state-owned companies, which are vital to commodity trading, have not been sanctioned. The economies of Europe, especially Germany and Italy, must now prepare for life without Russian gas and threaten a full embargo.
In the financial sector, we need to impose blanket sanctions on all Belarusian and Russian banks and impose them on the US specially designated nationals List – which freezes their assets and makes it illegal for anyone in the US to do business with them. All Russian and Belarusian banks should be disconnected from the world’s main banking intelligence service, Swift. Sanctions should be imposed on ruble clearing, meaning no transactions in rubles are possible and trading is effectively blocked, and there must be a total ban on US and UK public sector pension funds from holding Russian assets . Cryptocurrency wallets linked to Russia should be identified and confiscated.
Finally, the 5,000 members of Russia’s political, business and military elite and their families must be banned from obtaining UK, US and EU visas. Those privileges should be restored to anyone who publicly declares their disagreement with Vladimir Putin’s war and resigns. And if those in control of the military operation in Ukraine are looking for another exit, they could now defect and receive war crimes immunity, which should be investigated by one special court in the aggression against Ukraine.
We know sanctions work. Right from the start of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the US, EU and UK acted swiftly – freezing a large part of the Central Bank of Russia’s $638 billion in reserves was a major blow. Rough $403 billion of the bank’s foreign exchange reserves are held Dollar, Euro, Pound and other western currencies. Russia now has no access to these funds. A number of Russian banks have been cut off from the Swift payments system, effectively preventing the country from importing and exporting to and from the EU. About 80% of the Russian banking sector is currently subject to US sanctions.
The impact of these measures on the Russian economy is already significant and will only increase over time. The value of Russian companies listed on the London Stock Exchange dropped by 98%; The ruble continues to plummet and has already done so Lost 40% of its value. The central bank is desperate to prop up the ruble by imposing capital controls and doubling its interest rate to 20%.
The Russian leadership now represents a pariah state. Individual financial sanctions have already been imposed and travel bans are in preparation. Putin’s foreign assets were frozen along with those of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and members of the Russian Security Council. The EU has sanctioned all 351 MPs who voted to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk. More than a dozen billionaire oligarchs with ties to Putin have been hit by asset freezes and travel bans. However, the UK list is shamefully small – only three such people are included. But the UK government is working on new legislation that would allow it to respond to oligarch “hit lists”.
The tide is also changing in the private sector: multinationals are treating Russia as a poison market. Large energy, technology, consumer goods, auto and aircraft manufacturers withdraw from Russia. A worldwide boycott campaign Russian goods are underway to pressure all companies to stop cooperating with the aggressor state. Norway’s sovereign wealth fund has announced its $3 billion investment in Russia worthless overnight. This is just a harbinger of what is to come for private and pension funds with Russian assets.
All of these efforts are in the right direction, but they should be intensified as Putin intensifies his war on terror in Ukraine. A simple and quick step would be to lift the month-long grace period on US initial sanctions.
Let’s not forget that Putin declared war on Ukraine and bombed its sleeping cities. He resolved to wage war to satisfy his neo-imperialist ambitions, his desire to remain in power, and his intent to destroy what was left of the global world order.
What is happening in Ukraine has not been seen in Europe since World War II. Putin’s blitzkrieg attack on Kyiv failed and Ukrainian forces successfully repel the Russian army on the battlefield. The Kremlin is now laying siege to big cities like Mariupol and Kharkiv and razing smaller towns like Irpin, Hostomel and Bucha. his soldiers kill civilians try to escape. There is evidence of deliberate attacks on civilian buildings, including their use cluster bombs, which are prohibited under the Geneva Conventions. Russia is violating ceasefires and 200,000 women and children are unable to leave Mariupol via agreed humanitarian corridors. And the situation will only get worse in the coming weeks.
So, yes, Putin must fail. But the West must have the courage to make this happen. With boots on the ground and no-fly zones off the table, the West’s response to this war must be economic warfare in the name of defending democracy and freedom. There are costs that must be borne by all, but there are also benefits if Ukraine also protects the rest of Europe from the horrors of war. With Western support, Ukraine could once again become an open democratic society – a cornerstone of European security alongside Russia.
Because by making Putin fail, we are making Putinism fail altogether, and with it the idea that brute military force can be used to restore a former imperial possession.