Copyright © 2014 by Richard L. Hermann
The latest outrage perpetrated by Vladimir Putin, the former KGB thug who took his criminal gang with him to the Kremlin, should not go unpunished. Downing a civilian airliner must be the last straw. Thus far, the so-called “sanctions” the U.S. and its traditionally timid European allies have imposed on Russia are a joke. They do not even amount to a slap on the wrist.
Putin has brushed them aside with contempt. Undeterred in the least, he continues his Stalinist revivalism assuming that the West is as weak as it was in the 1930s, when another brutal, murderous dictator flexed his muscles to intimidate the small nations of Europe.
Despite NATO’s feckless reaction to Putin’s disregard for international norms—motivated by Western European dependence on Russian oil and gas exports and London’s new-found status as a haven for the billions Russian oligarchs have stolen from their country and salted away in the UK—there is actually much that can be done to bring him to his knees, or at least into line.
Here are some of the weapons in the Western arsenal:
- Europe can stop buying Russian oil and gas. It is stunning don’t realize that Russdia has nowhere else to sell its fossil fuel production. Without the Euros that flow east, the Russian economy will quickly plunge into crisis and jeopardize Putin’s hold on power. Moreover, the U.S., now the world’s largest oil and gas producer, can partially supplant any loss of Russian supply.
- Britain can dispense with its addiction to ill-gotten Russian oligarch money. If Prime Minister David Cameron wants the “special relationship” with the U.S. to continue, he needs to understand that we will not tolerate his preference for profits over principle.
- Russia should be ousted for now from the community of nations. While expelling it from the United Nations is neither possible nor practical, ousting Russia from international organizations such as the World Trade Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization, the Doha Round of trade negotiations, and other bodies vital to its economic well-being, can be done and would hurt.
- Travel by U.S. citizens to Russia and by Russian citizens to the U.S. can be banned; Russian airline landing rights in the U.S. can be suspended; and trade between U.S. exporters and Russia can be barred until it agrees to behave according to international legal norms.
- Moreover, the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands, should indict Vladimir Putin pursuant to its authority under Article 8 (war crimes) of the treaty establishing it for the crime he committed in providing the weapons that brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Eastern Ukraine.
Certainly, there would be some blowback and pain for Americans were we to impose real sanctions that have clout. Companies prohibited from trading with Russia would certainly suffer. This could be alleviated by temporary government assistance. Americans might have to pay more for gas and heating oil. This kind of “shared sacrifice,” once a bedrock of Americanism, but missing in action for many years now, could make a welcome comeback.
Putin needs to be made to pay for his criminal transgressions. This is the way to do it. If we continue to respond weakly and look the other way, we are condoning his criminal acts and encouraging him to continue down this very dangerous road. Unfortunately, we are the ones who might then wind up in a very bad place.
July 27, 2014