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Post Will Sanctions Work on Putin?
Created by John Eipper on 02/13/15 1:10 AM

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Will Sanctions Work on Putin? (Randy Black, USA, 02/13/15 1:10 am)

I have more respect for fellow Texan Richard Hancock than any other WAISer. With that in mind, I have some comments and a question on the news feature he cited on 12 February.

Richard quoted from a Wall Street Journal article by Clinton-era Treasury Secretary Roger Altman who opined on the effectiveness of financial sanctions on Russia, sanctions theoretically designed to damage the Russian "system" in order to cause Putin pain for supporting and funding the war on Ukraine.

The way I analyze Treasury Secretary Altman's article seems to be that Putin's desire to reanimate the USSR has caused:

Hundreds of thousands of Russians to flee Russia in the past three years; low oil prices are strangling Putin's treasury; the status of Russia's bonds are labeled junk status and are hurting the nation's ability to fund operations across a broad range of activities, and crime in Russia is out of control. Therefore, Russia cannot survive without a war with Ukraine and the NATO members who will defend Ukraine.


Literally, millions fled Russia in the late 1980s-early 1990s; crime was rampant during the same period; tens of billions of dollars left Russia for points ranging from Cyprus to Manhattan to London; oil was cheap, so cheap that Russia could not dig it out of the earth to the extent that they could support or feed its population. As a result, food was rationed during my first year in Siberia, 1993; Russia could not borrow money anywhere; everyone pretty much gave up on the Russians. During that period, I met WAISer Cameron Sawyer, who had arrived a few years earlier.

One year in, after meeting and listening to Cameron and a few others in mid-1994, I quickly concluded that while Russian leaders appeared to be stupid, corrupt and lazy, underneath they are amazingly clever, energetic and resilient.

Sure, they were crooked bastards then, and remain so now. However, you can't swing a cat in the US without getting a mouthful of fur or hitting a person intent on stealing your grandmother's life savings.

The main difference between them and us is that we live in a country with a system of laws that however flawed, continues to work far better than in Russia. In addition, as one Russian told me, "the difference between our cops and yours is that your cops don't take tips."

Finally, I have a memory of a Russian politician proudly supporting the news that millions of Russians had fled their homeland over the previous couple of years. "These are millions of pensions, housing and medical care that we will not have to support over the coming decades."

Question: In Richard's mind, will Putin successfully bait the West into a real war over Ukraine and if so, will anything change? Will Germany, France, the USA and the UK, which seems to be sitting this one out, be able to find a way out of this predicament that might allow all sides to save face?

JE comments:  Is Putin trying to bait the West into a war?  I would say no:  he's attempting a land grab with a hearty show of machismo, in the assumption that a war-weary NATO will do nothing but gripe about it.  This all begs the question of why:  Russia is already the largest country on the planet.

What could Putin possibly gain from a larger war?  It would raise oil prices overnight, but Russia would have no one to sell its oil to.  It might bolster Putin's popularity at home, but that would be short-lived as the reality of war sets in.

Roman Zhovtulya (next) has sent a response to Randy's post of 12 February.

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  • Will Sanctions Work on Putin? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 02/14/15 10:45 AM)
    Meu Deus, this world is completely upside down. I have been identifying completely with Randy Black's last few posts, including his comment of 13 February.

    Putin is too smart and practical to want a war with the West. But, I don't trust him. You push him too hard into a corner and he will come out swinging at you.  Perhaps with more widespread and stronger covert help to our enemies to undermine us anywhere and everywhere in the world?

    This Ukrainian situation is a very scary thing: too close to Russia for them to let it go; too insignificant a battleground to risk a direct confrontation between Russia and the US. We need some genuine diplomacy here.  Juvenile bravado is useless and dangerous. Time to stop antagonizing and make nice before things really get out of hand. I don't understand why both sides don't agree with a plebiscite to split East and West Ukraine to permanently stop the fighting and get down to normal lives. That is what everyone should want. What difference will it make if it is under the Putin government (directly or indirectly) or the Ukrainian government? Tudo a mesma coisa. [It's all the same thing--JE.]

    I am personally very sympathetic to Roman Zhovtulya's situation and admire his patriotic passion. Nevertheless we have discussed how these coups d'état can quickly take a life of their own and quickly morph into lingering civil wars. Please don't hope to drag us into this quagmire. Let's keep hell as small as possible and dedicate ourselves to eradicating the numerous wars all over the globe. Each is extremely expensive in lives and resources, and the result is always nothing but more misery for all involved.

    We like to blame Putin and call him names for his actions and reactions creating this situation, but originally we also have shown a lot of nerve going to the guy's political/military backyard and setting up camp, making promises to the locals and special groups, and then playing dumb when the going gets rough. It's Georgia all over again, except on steroids and more dangerous.

    JE comments:  The ceasefire is scheduled to take effect at midnight in Ukraine, which is in three hours' time.  Tor's call for serious diplomacy has apparently worked.  Time will tell for how long.

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