“The United States and its allies imposed unprecedented economic sanctions on Russia in the wake of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The swiftness and intensity of the penalties crashed the ruble, forced the Russian stock market to close, and sent Russians to line up at ATMs to withdraw dollars from their bank accounts.
The Russian economy was in free fall. Until it wasn’t, exactly.
The country’s central bank responded by sharply hiking interest rates to 20 percent and imposing strict capital controls. Those interventions, along with Russia’s still-intact ability to sell its oil and gas abroad, helped create a buffer against the economic chaos after the initial sanctions shock. The measures were “straight out of the country’s economic crisis playbook,” said Adam Smith, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, who worked on sanctions during the Obama administration.
The economic crisis playbook did its job, and calmed the immediate crisis. The ruble stabilized. That allowed Russia to declare victory over the sanctions onslaught. “The strategy of the economic blitz has failed,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in April.
At least, that is what Russia would like to claim. Russia’s efforts to shore up its currency mask the profound economic disruptions and transformations that sanctions are unleashing within Russia right now. The West’s sanctions are isolating Russia, cutting it off from key imports that it needs for commercial goods and its own manufacturing to make its economy work. That means high-tech imports like microchips, to develop advanced weaponry. But it also means buttons for shirts.
Right now, there is “this false sense of stability,” said Maria Shagina, a visiting fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.
Russia is facing a deep recession, one the Bank of Russia says will be “of a transformational, structural nature.” The Finance Ministry has predicted the Russian GDP will shrink by about 8.8 percent in 2022. Inflation is expected to clock in as high as 23 percent this year. Russia is looking at a looming debt default. All of this will mean hardship for ordinary Russians, who are already seeing their real incomes shrink. Some tens of thousands have tried to flee, especially those in tech, prompting a potential “brain drain.” And these are the things we know; Russia will cease publishing a lot of economic data, a tactic, experts said, Moscow has used before to obscure the effects of sanctions.
These sanctions, said Yakov Feygin, a political economy expert at the Berggruen Institute, are pushing Russia — a modern economy, integrated around the globe — back decades and decades.
“They’ve stabilized it, they’ve taken emergency measures. That was to be expected. But that’s not going to help them in the long run,” Feygin said of Russia. “You’re not going to see people queuing for food for quite a bit. But with the current course of things, it’s still very possible.”
The US and European allies have continued to pile on more penalties, refining and sharpening the sanctions, all in an effort to ratchet up the pressure on Moscow. The EU has proposed a phase-out of Russian oil products, and depending on the final details, that might further erode the Kremlin’s lifeline. And the US could take additional steps, like threatening secondary sanctions that go after countries like China or India, to deter them from buying cheap Russian energy. That comes at a cost, and not just for Russia.
Even without more escalation, the sanctions regime against Russia is one of the most aggressive in history, untested on an economy of Russia’s size and as entangled in the global financial system.
Whether the sanctions are “working,” then, depends on what they are intended to achieve. One thing is clear: Over time, these sanctions will likely make it harder for Russia to rebuild its tanks, manufacture cruise missiles, and finance a war. It will also make it harder to produce food and make cars. And it still may not stop Russia from pursuing its campaign against Ukraine, all with unpredictable consequences for the rest of the world.”
“The original deal was reached during Barack Obama’s presidency, after years of talks among Iran, the United States and other leading countries, including Russia and China. It lifted an array of nuclear sanctions on Iran in exchange for severe curbs on its atomic program. The deal had limits, however, including provisions that would expire over time, technically starting within the next three years. (Supporters of restoring the deal argue that the most important provisions won’t expire for several more years and some elements last in perpetuity.)”
“the original Iran nuclear deal involves the Russians taking special roles in helping Iran implement the agreement, such as shipping out Iran’s excess enriched uranium. If Russia refuses to play that role, the deal is once again undermined.”
“The European Union is dependent on Russia for almost half of its natural gas and a quarter of its oil. Germany alone imports 55 percent of the gas it consumes from Putin’s petro-state. As part of its invasion strategy, Russia thought it could use its natural gas and oil to blackmail Europe into passivity. Europe is belatedly beginning to shut off the Russian spigot, but it will pay a heavy economic price for the delay.
And for Europe’s energy switch to succeed, the United States must step up.
Just as we were the Arsenal of Democracy when fascism threatened Europe 80 years ago, today we must become the Arsenal of Clean Energy. That means we should finance and export clean energy to Europe in large quantities as quickly as possible. This approach would help protect our own security and economic interests, as well as the sovereignty, democracies, and economies of Europe, all while working to combat climate change.
Our goals should be: 1) make European energy secure; 2) help shift European countries to cleaner energy; and 3) create a massive clean energy market that strengthens supply chains and job creation in the U.S.”
“starts with an energy version of the “Candy Bombers” who supplied Berlin during the Soviet Union’s blockade in 1948. In this case, we could provide a temporary natural gas lifeline to Europe as they wean themselves off Russian energy. America has some additional capacity, and more coming online very soon, to send liquefied natural gas to Europe. We should combine a near-term increase in U.S. gas production and exports to Europe with assistance for European countries to, over the medium-term, reduce their reliance on natural gas by switching to other, lower-carbon fuels and increased energy efficiency.
Second, to ensure this lifeline leads Europe to a safe and sustainable future, the United States needs to create an American clean energy sovereignty fund. We should commit to $10 billion per year for the next decade to finance the export of U.S. hydrogen, nuclear, and carbon capture technology that can be deployed across Europe. The new technologies should be supported by both U.S. and European supply chains and workers to ensure economic growth across both continents. This government-backed entity would provide a significant cost-share for countries importing U.S. clean energy, particularly technologies that will be primarily made in and exported from the U.S.
As we are seeing now with Germany’s reconsideration of its decision to close its nuclear plants, even renewable-heavy countries need firm clean energy provided by technologies like nuclear power. This is even more important in industrial areas of Eastern Europe that need both the steady electricity and high heat that nuclear, or hydrogen, can provide.
Finally, as all of Washington knows by now, personnel is policy. To underscore the urgency of this mission, the Biden administration should create a new, senior position at the National Security Council to manage clean, firm energy and coordinate the alphabet soup of agencies involved. This position would oversee a new “Team Energy” of public and private sector experts who can cut through the bureaucracy.”
“a steady stream of official U.S. estimates suggests that within a decade, China will possess enough warships to dominate the Indian Ocean region if it chooses. The Office of Naval Intelligence estimated China would build 67 new major surface combatants and 12 new nuclear-powered submarines by 2030. The Pentagon’s most recent report on China’s military power raised those projections even further. Given that China already has formidable capabilities for defending itself in the east — and the heightened range and survivability of these new ships — it seems China plans to operate them far from its shores. The Pentagon also observes that China is developing the capabilities to conduct “offensive operations” deep in the Indian Ocean, presumably including naval blockades, bombardment of enemy targets, or even a combination assault by land and sea.”
“What exactly does China want in the Indian Ocean? In the near term, it wants to protect its Middle East oil supplies, the hundreds of thousands of Chinese migrant laborers working abroad and its overseas investments. Looking ahead, however, China has laid the groundwork to bring considerable military might to the Indian Ocean if it needs to.
With an unchecked fleet able to exercise control in the Indian Ocean — even if for legitimate purposes to protect trade and investments — China could intimidate states militarily and economically, just as it has done in the South China Sea for years, and more recently with Bangladesh, the Maldives and Indonesia. It could engage in unsafe conduct close to ships and planes, harass commercial or naval vessels, and enter other countries’ waters and airspace. Vulnerability to such coercion could compel smaller countries to side with China on issues like freedom of navigation and overflight, territorial disputes, trade negotiations, military agreements with the U.S. or its partners, human rights or relations with Taiwan.
In a military conflict, a Chinese Indian Ocean fleet would be even more threatening. It could disrupt trade flows in the Indian Ocean for the U.S. or its allies or impede American military access. China could also attack U.S. or allied forces swinging from the Mediterranean, or Middle East, or Diego Garcia, to the Pacific.
Part of the reason the Indian Ocean hasn’t received as much attention as it should is that many U.S. defense experts assume or hope they can rely on India to automatically be a “counterweight” to China in this region. For over two decades, Washington has been enamored with the idea that India, at one point exceeding 8 percent economic growth annually, would become a military powerhouse that could “frustrate China’s hegemonic ambitions.” The U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy released in February counts on India to be “a net security provider,” just as previous administrations officially banked on the Indian Navy taking a “leading role in maintaining Indian Ocean security.” Some former Trump administration officials even want to formalize a Japan-style alliance.
But India’s ability to play this role is in serious doubt.”
“When the Cold War ended in the ’90s, the United States possessed unrivaled economic and military power. Scholar Francis Fukuyama claimed the “End of History” and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright asserted the centrality of American exceptionalism in her coinage, “the indispensable nation.”
Some argue that that unipolar moment was overstated. “Look, the Americans suffered from hubris after the end of the Soviet Union,” said Joseph Nye, a Harvard professor who has written widely about American power. “The unipolar moment, I think, was always illusory.”
At the end of the Cold War, the US did continue to hold itself out as the guarantor of security. “The United States appointed itself as responsible for peace, security, and democracy in Europe,” Stephen Wertheim, a historian of US foreign policy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told me. In response to ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the United States, through NATO, took military action against Serbia. The intervention was relatively limited, and the outcome of it was a successful projection of US might.
But that unilateral moment, real or imagined, was short-lived.
The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, were not what challenged that global supremacy, argues Wertheim. Rather, it was the 20 disastrous years of overreach in America’s response. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan exposed the limits of US power.”
“When the [second] Bush administration came in, they actually used the withdrawal provision to get the country out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that had been in place since 1972. That limited what kind of missile defenses both sides could deploy. [The administration] didn’t want to see any limits at all anymore. And ironically, to this day, we have not deployed defenses that are substantially in excess of those limits. In fact, I think with very slight modifications to the treaty — deployment locations, things like that — we could still be inside it. But the point was more to get rid of the treaties, in my view, than it was to actually deploy a working defense.”
“it’s important to call out the bad U.S. foreign policy moves that helped get us here. And even though no one did this but Putin, the U.S.’s failed approach to Russia for the last 30 years—a bipartisan effort that includes mistakes by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden—deserves criticism as well.”
“Clinton could have completely revamped NATO now that its purpose—defending member nations against the expansion of the Soviet Union—was no longer applicable. Instead, Clinton, with the Republican Party’s support, oversaw an expansion of NATO. Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland all joined. Years later, Putin would cite this enlargement of NATO as one of the West’s “broken promises” that justified his Ukraine policy.”
“With the Clinton administration’s backing, NATO also intervened in Yugoslavia in 1999 to ensure an independent Kosovo. That military action never had the backing of the United Nations; it was a violation of international law, just like Putin’s attack on Ukraine.”
“At a 2008 NATO summit—one attended by Putin—Bush staunchly supported Ukraine’s eventual admittance to NATO, over the objections of France, the U.K., and Germany.
The Obama administration, of course, inflamed tensions with Russia when the U.S. took sides in the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. And then came Donald Trump. Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media ceaselessly accused Trump of being a Russian stooge, even a pro-Putin plant, installed by Russia as president of the U.S. due to a subtle influence campaign on Facebook. This was of course ridiculous—and as evidence of how ridiculous the claims are, Trump’s actual administration was just as foolishly tough on Russia as his predecessors. In 2017, Vice President Mike Pence even reiterated the 2008 Bucharest declaration.
The Biden administration maintained that same fiction. A clear declaration that the Ukraine would not be joining NATO might have deprived Putin of the intellectual ammo he required to move forward with this invasion. We don’t know for sure. But it was incumbent on the U.S. to try. NATO is a means to an end—a more safe and secure Europe—not an end unto itself. If expansion is creating the very conditions that NATO’s existence is supposed to prevent, it’s not working. Yet every single U.S. president since the end of the Cold War has misunderstood this. And now here we are.”