Saturday, August 25, 2018

Deep State Sanctions Cannot Bring Russia To Its Knees


bloomberg  |  The U.S.’s sanctions policy against Russia is evolving from trying to nudge the Kremlin in a desired direction to inflicting maximum pain. This is a slippery slope, and it’s time to consider the most extreme consequences for Russia, as well as the U.S. and its allies.

During a Senate Banking Committee hearing this week, a telling exchange took place between Republican Senator John Kennedy and the Trump administration’s senior sanctions officials.

Kennedy demanded to know what they would do if the president ordered them to bring the Russian economy "to its knees.” They wouldn’t give a straight answer, saying instead that the ramifications of such a goal would need to be assessed and that current sanctions were already aggressive. Irritated, Kennedy insisted: “But the economy hasn’t been brought to its knees!”

His frustration is understandable. The U.S. has levied sanctions, or said it will, in response to a series of Russian actions: the annexation of Crimea, the fomenting of a pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine, the attempted poisoning of an ex-spy in the U.K. and a string of cyberattacks. The list could go on — but President Vladimir Putin’s Russia has gone on doing all those things.

Treasury Undersecretary Sigal Mandelker said in her testimony that she believes Russia’s “adventurism” has indeed been checked by the economic pain the sanctions have inflicted.
That, however, looks like a statement of faith rather than fact. There is no evidence the sanctions have affected Putin’s thinking or plans. That he might like them to be lifted isn’t such proof.