Vladimir Putin’s Russia invaded Ukraine one week ago. What was expected to be a swift conquest has been nothing but, with Russian forces bogged down all over Ukraine. And as the fighting continues every day brings new financial and economic sanctions against Russia from both Europe and the U.S.
The pundits and the policy experts are scratching their heads day after day on the news channels attempting to explain what exactly happened. Why has the Russian invasion gone so wrong? The one thing that they all seem to agree on is that Russian President Vladimir Putin thought that the Ukrainian people would capitulate as soon as they saw the Russian forces cross their borders. Well, he was wrong about that. Instead, Putin has been treated to footage of unarmed Ukrainian civilians standing in the streets of their cities trying to stop armored Russian military vehicles.
And that is not all. Putin also miscalculated as to how the West would respond to his invasion. He thought that cutting off natural gas and oil sales would cripple countries like Germany and just the threat of such a move would cow them into silence, or just some sort of token condemnations of his invasion. But the western leaders have shown that they are willing to put up with some economic discomfort, such as a sharp rise in the price of oil, as they know that this will only be temporary.
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They also know best how to hurt Vladimir Putin personally and to jeopardize his power in Russia: hit both Russia and the Russian oligarchs where it hurts them the most – their bank accounts.
Putin cannot remain in power for long if the Russian billionaires lose their fortunes, the Russian people see their bank accounts frozen, empty stores, soaring inflation and the crash of the Ruble all because of economic sanctions.
Every day that Putin prolongs the conflict brings new sanctions against Russia. The country has been cut off from international banking exchanges and has seen hundreds of billions of its foreign currency reserves frozen in the foreign banks where they are stored.
Countries have also banned Russian airlines from flying in their airspace and have also prohibited their airline from flying through Russian airspace. This is in spite of the fact that their airlines will need to fly longer routes, burning more jet fuel requiring them to raise fees to the consumers. And this as the price of oil has gone up and the world is still seeing inflation caused by the Covid crisis related supply chain problems.
And if Vladimir Putin thought that the private sector would revolt at such actions and continue to do business with him rather than lose billions in revenues, he was wrong there too. Two of America’s biggest manufacturers, Boeing and Ford, have both announced that they are suspending operations in Russia and will also stop providing the country with any spare parts or services needed for their products used there.
American television and streaming companies like Roku and Direct TV have dropped Russia’s RT News channel from their services. Apple has pulled the apps for Russian media outlets like RT and Sputnik News from their App store and Microsoft banned RT from its Windows app store and de-ranked both news sources in its search engine Bing and Google also dropped it from its Android system. Apple has also suspended all sales of its products like iPads and computers in Russia.
And to add insult to injury, even American comic Dennis Miller has quit his own talk show “Dennis Miller + One” which airs on RT. And it’s not like Miller has anyone else banging on his door these days to offer him work which is probably why he had to do a show on RT in the first place.
For now, it seems that the policy of containment by way of economic sanctions on Vladimir Putin and Russia is working. This was not really an option for England and France in September 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. They were also in no position to send their own militaries to help defend Poland. The US and its NATO allies have not sent in the troops to help Ukraine for a number of very good reasons. Most importantly, the presence of American or British troops in Ukraine would just give Putin a propaganda coup as he could tell the Russian people that he was right about Ukraine being a threat to their country’s security.
This, in part, explains why the west is right in using economic weapons in response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and not their military ones.