On Russian sanctions, best policy for U.S. is to keep its powder dry

'Once sanctions are triggered, you lose the deterrent effect,' said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.



January 25, 2022 - 11:09 AM

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Jan. 20, 2022, in Berlin, Germany. (Kay Nietfeld/Pool/Getty Images/TNS)

Russia continues its threatening military buildup around Ukraine. A half-dozen ships capable of carrying troops and tanks are en route from Russia Baltic ports to the Mediterranean, whence they could reach Ukraine on short notice. Russia has also dispatched new troops and aircraft to Belarus, ostensibly for military exercises in early February. 

There is still a hope for diplomacy: talks between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov ended on Friday with a promise to continue later. Clearly, however, Russia is surrounding Ukraine and the questions of how best to deter an invasion — or to respond if deterrence fails — are more pressing than ever.

It’s a hard balance to strike, especially because Russian President Vladimir Putin can — and will — use any measures the United States and its NATO allies either take or refrain from taking as a pretext for aggression. With that reality in mind, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is calling for tough economic sanctions now, as punishment for the moves Mr. Putin has already made. Some Republican lawmakers echo him.

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