Putin A “Killer”
He wants to be tough on Russia and recently publicly called Putin a “killer”. US President Joe Biden followed up his announcements with action. He imposed sanctions on Russian institutions and persons and also imposed punitive measures against the Russian financial sector. Taken together, these are the toughest sanctions against Russia since 2018 — after the poisoning of ex-agent Sergei Skripal in England.
But at the beginning of this week, Biden telephoned President Vladimir Putin and offered him a summit meeting in a “third country” , two on neutral ground. That sounded like relaxation in the crisis surrounding the massive deployment of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. The completely new sanctions, on the other hand, seem like an escalation. Are the two great powers heading for a serious political conflict?
To answer that, it is worth taking a closer look at the nature of the sanctions and their cause. Joe Biden is not imposing the punitive measures in response to the Russian troop deployment, but in retaliation for the interference that the US government has accused Russia of. According to US authorities, Russia is responsible for the attack on the Texan software company Solarwind, which has serious consequences for the US government and companies. And Moscow interfered in the US election campaign.
For this, the American president is now imposing tough sanctions , much tougher than in the last round of sanctions in March against Russian prosecutors who participated in the conviction and imprisonment of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny . This time a total of 32 Russian institutions and people are affected. Ten Russian diplomats in Washington are immediately expelled. Also, and here’s perhaps the most bite in it, the new measures prohibit US investors from buying and trading Russian government bonds. Western investors have so far liked to buy these because they offered comparatively high interest rates with a low risk of default.
Unlike Trump, Obama and Bush
The success of these new American sanctions will , of course, also depend on how many other states join. Europeans and Americans closely coordinated the Navalny sanctions in March. If the Europeans and other US allies now also participate in the financial sanctions, they will have more clout.
Overall, the sanctions are painful but not devastating. As the New York Times reported yesterday, the Russian economy is by no means “suffocating” . Russia is less dependent on the sale of its government bonds abroad than many Western countries. The Russian sovereign wealth funds are still well filled. In addition, Russian and Chinese banks continue to buy Russian bonds. Even though the ruble fell on Thursday, there was no real panic. Vladimir Putin can now calmly consider how he will react.
With the sanctions, Joe Biden demonstrates a clear turning away from his predecessor and Putin admirer Donald Trump, but not from himself and his offer to talk. He shows what he means by “dealing hard with Russia”, but at the same time his offer to meet with Putin remains on the table. Biden thus indicates a possible third way in relations with Russia. A new president does not have to be “restarted” ( reset) of relationships, as Biden’s predecessors Barack Obama, Donald Trump and George W. Bush tried to do. The newcomer to the White House must still necessarily be heading for a conflict with Russia. His national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, said they wanted “stable and predictable relationships.” This includes imposing sanctions that have been announced.
It is unclear whether Vladimir Putin sees it all as sporty. At least he now knows that Joe Biden’s sanctions pistol is loose and that he must expect more punitive measures if Russian troops cross the borders with Ukraine or Russians interfere in domestic politics in Western countries. Putin should now try to look as cool and relaxed as possible. He has not yet responded to the offer to talk to from Washington.
Originally published at https://zaviews.blogspot.com.