Weak Russian Economy an Achilles Heel in Ukraine Escalations by Nicholas Adamopoulos
The cease-fire in Ukraine has rapidly deteriorated in the past week. Russian tank columns, along with troop transports and trucks towing artillery pieces have been spotted moving into territory currently controlled by the pro-Russian rebels. While Moscow has denied that the tanks do indeed belong to Russia, the Ukrainian government insists otherwise, and at least one vehicle has been spotted sporting the Russian flag. The United States have recently gone public with their wish for Russia to honor the Minsk peace agreements, which entails pulling all of its military backing of the rebels. However, with the recent escalations in the situation, this looks unlikely.
The Obama administration, alongside several European Union partners, has issued warnings to Russia that they will continue to press even tighter economic sanctions if Russia refuses to comply with the peace agreements. While it remains to be seen how effective these sanctions will actually be as a negotiating tactic, Russia is currently in dire economic straits – the value of the Ruble is in free fall, and foreign currency is in high demand. Russia’s economists projected a time frame of at least a few years for the economy to kick-start again. Russia is also struggling to boost the economy of the recently acquired Crimea region, which currently stands as the poorest of Russia’s territories. President Obama is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the coming days to negotiate the
U.S. Should Continue Sanctions Until Russia Honors Ceasefire by Jacob Wasserman
Russia has been increasing military activism in Eastern Ukraine for nearly a year now. Russia did so first by entering Crimea, Ukraine’s southeastern peninsula, where it forced a referendum vote that gave Russia leadership and control of the region. Then they gained influence by mobilizing its army into other cities and creating violence. Russia’s actions are unacceptable, especially since they are causing unnecessary civilian deaths within Ukraine’s borders. The extent to which the United States and the international community should involve themselves in Ukraine has been and continues to be in question.
Understandably, countries looking at the conflict from the outside-in do not wish to involve themselves. While the United States and the rest of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have partnerships with Ukraine, they are not formal allies and do not need to commit to aiding Ukraine. If foreign countries were to help more, they likely wouldn’t send troops to fight. As we’ve seen with American foreign policy, putting boots on the ground is extremely expensive and it becomes difficult to withdraw. Since no other nations have vested interests in Ukraine – to the extent that Ukraine and Russia themselves do – no foreign country should or would take drastic measures in the region. Since Russia already took control of Crimea while the international community merely watched, Ukraine should have few prospects of military aid during the increasing tensions now.
The United States has already committed over $1 billion, and the international community could continue giving aid. Since other countries likely do not have that financial power, a more realistic option, one that the United States and several European nations have already adopted, is imposing sanctions on Russia. Since sanctions have been imposed, it appears that they have hurt Russia’s economy, as their currency has weakened significantly. Obviously, the sanctions are not wholly effective since Russia is still applying military pressure in Ukraine. As Russia moved dozens of tanks into Eastern Ukraine last week, more civilians have been killed and injured, and the conflict becomes more of a humanitarian issue. Even though foreign troops would back up Ukraine in an ideal world, the United States cannot afford to get involved in another fight overseas. NATO will not do so either, especially since Ukraine is not a member. Instead, the best countries can do for the international community is pressure Russia’s economy with more sanctions.