Economic sanctions remain one of the most powerful tools the United States has in its foreign policy arsenal. And as Russian forces continue to gather along the border with Ukraine, U.S. officials hope the threat of those sanctions can deter a full-scale invasion.
“The problem with sanctions is that they’re more effective if you don’t have to use them,” said Olga Oliker, director of the Europe and Central Asia program at the International Crisis Group. “They’re more effective if you can credibly threaten something the other doesn’t want enough that they won’t do what you’re trying to stop them from doing.”
In addition to sanctions that target specific individuals or companies, some proposals involve cutting Russia off from the SWIFT system, which would remove Russian institutions from a major global financial network.
Another target is the nearly completed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which, when operational, would double the amount of natural gas flowing from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea and likely reduce the need for other gas pipelines, such as the UrengoyPomaryUzhhorod gas pipeline which crosses Ukraine. .
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has proposed a bill that would require automatic sanctions against Nord Stream 2 operators within two weeks of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The bill failed to pass Thursday, but garnered a handful of Democratic votes in the final count.
Sens Democrats Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire have proposed an alternative bill that “would impose crippling sanctions on Russia’s banking industry and senior military and government officials if the president [Vladimir] Putin is stepping up hostile actions in Ukraine or against Ukraine.”
“The Ukrainian army is not the same army as when Russia invaded Crimea,” Shaheen said in an interview with CNBC.com. “They’ve had their weapons systems modernized, the United States has supported them in that. We’ve had NATO and United States trainers working in the country. So the circumstances are very different from what “They were when Russia entered Crimea. And we have to do everything we can to make sure Putin understands that it will be a united response if he takes that step.”
Watch the video above to find out how US sanctions work, whether the US can persuade allies to cut Russia off from major financial network SWIFT, and what’s next in the foreign policy clash between the West and Russia.
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