“We need to go after Putin directly and his network of kleptocrats and oligarchs. Weakness is provocative. Without imposing real costs, we won’t deter Putin. We have been pushing for these sanctions for years, further delays will lead to war.”
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Kyiv on Wednesday; after that he heads to Germany and then plans to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva Friday. Blinken is offering Russia a diplomatic off-ramp while warning that the United States will impose harsh sanctions on Russia if there is a full-scale invasion. That seems like a reasonable mix of carrots and sticks — but as Psaki’s warning shows, the signs suggest it isn’t working.
Putin may calculate that sanctions on the Russian banking or energy sectors might not have much effect. But one thing we do know that Putin cares about is his own illicit fortune. The U.S. government has never really tried to go after the people who launder Putin’s allegedly stolen billions and profit from his gangsterism. A massive new GOP sanctions bill being introduced this week would go after the corruption of Putin himself, every member of his cabinet, his family members and even his alleged longtime mistress Alina Kabaeva.
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