When Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech to the nation Monday night, setting the stage for a new Russian military intervention in neighboring Ukraine, he characterized sanctions as a weapon Western powers would use against Moscow no matter what.
“They have one goal: to restrain the development of Russia,” Putin said, arguing that the West will always find a new false pretext for sanctions. He then signed orders recognizing the independence of two separatist regions in Ukraine and sent Russian forces onto their territory for “peacekeeping” purposes — in what President Biden called the beginning of an invasion.
Still, even if they fail to prevent Putin from invading Ukraine, sanctions are still important for “signaling to people in Russia he is taking Russia in the wrong direction,” as well as “constraining and strangling Russia’s capacity for future aggression,” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
“I think it is incumbent on the West and the United States to ensure the external environment is punishing — that we are playing our part in not facilitating and enabling this type of regime,” Kendall-Taylor said.
Kendall-Taylor said Putin’s speech seemed to indicate economic costs weren’t going to be an overriding factor in his decision-making. “If he is thinking about his legacy and doesn’t want to be the leader who lost Ukraine, I don’t think there was anything there that could deter action besides the threat of military force — and that was not in the cards,” she said.
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