By Atlantic Council experts - February 21, 2022
Weeks of dire Western warnings began to bear out on Monday when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into the two separatist regions of eastern Ukraine after recognizing their independence. Europe’s post-Cold War security order now hangs in the balance as many wonder whether those troops will stop at the contact line separating the breakaway republics from Ukrainian government-controlled territory.
With Ukraine facing a formidable enemy further encroaching on its soil, Western policymakers must scramble to respond to a geopolitical nightmare coming to life. In response, the United States and the European Union rolled out a substantial package of sanctions, while Germany canceled the Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline.
As the fast-moving situation on the ground develops, our experts are weighing in on what this perilous moment means for Ukraine, Europe, and the wider world. This post will be continuously updated as they track this hugely consequential story and send us their insights, analysis, and reporting.
Biden’s reasonable start on sanctions falls short on promises
This is a reasonable first tranche from the Biden administration, moving in step with what the European Union (EU) is reportedly considering, assuming that there are more incremental aggressions anticipated by Moscow that will need room to escalate by the United States and its partners. Unfortunately, these sanctions do fall short of the major banking sanctions promised on both sides of the Atlantic, as no significant commercial banks were included.
The newest sanctions will have impact, undoubtedly, but I fear that Putin may assess the West does not have the stomach to impose truly significant measures given the incremental nature of today’s announcement. I hope that time proves him wrong, as it is clear he has no intention of stopping with just taking the breakaway territories.
—Brian O’Toole is a nonresident senior fellow at the GeoEconomics Center and a former senior US Treasury Department official.
A solid sanctions response—in the interim
The Biden administration’s imposition of full blocking sanctions (and not lesser sanctions) against two financial institutions is critical: It sets a standard for strong future action against most of all big Russian banks. Also good was the imposition of sanctions on secondary market trading of Russian sovereign debt (bonds).
These actions seem to meet what the administration was going for: sanctions sharp enough to get Kremlin attention while leaving most in reserve. Between the US sanctions, the German decision on Nord Stream 2, and what I hope is in the EU sanctions package (e.g., sovereign debt restrictions), it’s a solid interim response to Putin’s aggression. But that means more of a warning shot. And worse aggression may be coming.
—Daniel Fried is the Weiser family distinguished fellow at the Council and a former US ambassador to Poland.
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