January 24, 2022

Should the U.S. Rattle Putin’s Cage?

Source: Politico

Journalists: Nahal Toosi, Andrew Desiderio, Alexander Ward, Quint Forgey

Now that top Biden administration officials concede Russia is likely to invade Ukraine again, the biggest question roiling Washington is whether crushing sanctions would be most useful now — before troops and tanks roll over the border — or after an incursion as punishment. That fiery debate is the reason congressional action is stalled.

American Russia hawks, most Republicans, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are firmly on the “do it yesterday!” side.


Edward Fishman, who coordinated sanctions policy toward Russia at the State Department from 2015 to 2017, said Blinken et al. have it right. “If the U.S. were to impose major sanctions now, the Kremlin would likely assess that sanctions are inevitable — they’re damned if they do, damned if they don’t — reducing the deterrent effect and increasing the likelihood of a military offensive,” he told NatSec Daily.

That’s not to say the administration is standing pat. The White House has already endorsed Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez’s (D-N.J.) “mother of all sanctions” legislation — a slate of unprecedented financial penalties that would kick in only after a Russian invasion.

Even though the Senate is on recess this week, Menendez is talking with Republicans in the hopes of having a bipartisan bill ready to go by the time lawmakers return next week. Fishman said making the Menendez bill law would help Biden in his quest to fend off Putin.

Read the full story and more from Politico.


  • Edward Fishman