Friday, July 25, 2014

Not a Stick

Sanctions--as minor as they are--especially the secondary effects of discouraging private money from staying in Russia, seem to be hurting Russia. But if sanctions do replace military options as an effective means of pressuring Russia, don't be shocked if Russia responds with military escalation.

As we seek to punish Russia over their serial invasions of Ukraine (Crimea and eastern Ukraine), don't forget that any sanctions that are effective in coercing Russia will from Russia's point of view be no different than military action designed to coerce Russia.

If that's the case, Russia might respond to sanctions and their secondary effects not by ending their support for secessionist forces (some actual Russians) in eastern Ukraine but by directly intervening in eastern Ukraine to conquer it with army and Interior Ministry troops.

So we need to beef up our military assets to limit Russian threats to NATO states and to help Ukraine's army survive a conventional Russian invasion.

I'd also help Ukraine develop the ability to threaten Russia's Sevastopol naval base. Naval mines and means of delivery plus surface-to-surface missiles to attack and close down the naval base and threaten ships in port would be a very visible Ukrainian counter-strike should Russia seek to invade eastern Ukraine overtly.

Do those things and maybe we deter Russia from escalating to win rather than accept defeat in eastern Ukraine. Because while we hope sanctions can work instead of a military stick to alter Russia's behavior, ultimately sanctions are not a stick.