Cayman Islands, Caribbeanand International News
Monday, Jun 17, 2024

As Russia-Ukraine crisis ramps up, Biden faces sanctions dilemma

As Russia-Ukraine crisis ramps up, Biden faces sanctions dilemma

US policymakers appear united on need to oppose Russian invasion, but disagreements emerge on pace of sanctions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognise two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent and send troops to the territories has drawn widespread rebuke as a major escalation and a breach of international law.

But in the United States, where President Joe Biden has started imposing sanctions on Russian banks and “elites”, there is no clear consensus on how the government should respond to the Russian move.

Hawkish lawmakers are calling for the most serious US sanctions to be unleashed now, while others argue that Washington should hold on to the most severe penalties to deter potential further aggression by Moscow.

Matthew Pauly, an associate professor of history at Michigan State University, said incremental sanctions “might be sensible because such an approach would create a sliding penalty scale and offer a disincentive for future, more expansive Russian moves”.

But gradual penalties come with their own set of problems, Pauly said.

“Incremental sanctions might also invite Russia to test Ukrainian and Western resolve in stages, in hope of fracturing Kyiv’s support,” he told Al Jazeera in an email earlier this week. “The application of ‘massive,’ comprehensive sanctions now might remove a deterrent to a full-scale Russian war against Ukraine.”

For now, Biden seems to favour gradual sanctions. On Monday, after Putin recognised the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), Washington imposed measures targeting trade in the two territories.

The following day, Biden announced sanctions against two Russian banks, the country’s sovereign debt and several individuals described as part of Putin’s inner circle. “If Russia goes further with this invasion, we stand prepared to go further as with sanctions,” Biden said on Tuesday.

Still, some Congress members are calling for tougher penalties against Russia now.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton called for “punishing sanctions” on Russia’s oil and gas sector and on critical industries, while key Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called Biden’s sanctions “woefully inadequate”.

“I will continue to try to work with the Biden Administration and Senate Democrats to create crippling sanctions for Putin’s invasion,” the senator wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “However, at every turn it seems Biden Administration is being caught flat-footed.”

But Alexandra Vacroux, executive director of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, said Tuesday’s measures were “appropriate”.

“The administration needs to leave something in its pocket with which to punish Russia further if it seizes Kyiv, for example, or if it launches an invasion from three sides around the country,” Vacroux told Al Jazeera in a phone interview.

Russia has been amassing troops at Ukraine’s borders for months, sparking fears that it may be preparing a full-scale invasion of its neighbour. Moscow has denied that it plans to invade, insisting that it has legitimate security grievances relating to Kyiv’s deepening alliance with the West – and demanding guarantees that Ukraine will not be allowed to join NATO.

Numerous rounds of talks between Russian, European and American officials have failed to defuse the tensions. On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelled a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, which was set to take place in Geneva later this week.

Meanwhile, the autonomy or independence of the eastern Ukrainian regions, where Russia-backed separatists have been battling government forces since 2014, is a separate – but not unrelated – issue. The violence previously had been handled through the Minsk Agreements and talks involving Moscow, Kyiv, Paris and Berlin.

While analysts see some legitimacy in Russia’s concern about NATO’s eastwards expansion into former Soviet republics, they say an invasion of Ukraine is illegal and cannot be justified under international law. Moreover, Ukrainian officials say Putin’s recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent effectively killed the Minsk Agreements that aimed to end the fighting.

But in a speech on Monday, Putin voiced grievances that went well beyond NATO or eastern Ukraine. The Russian president went as far as questioning Ukraine’s right to exist as an independent state.

Melvyn Levitsky, professor of international policy at the University of Michigan, said Putin has put his country in an “untenable position”.

“An invasion would put Russia in the position of an outlaw or rogue country, rather than restore Russia’s position as a world leader,” Levitsky, a former career diplomat, told Al Jazeera in an email on Monday.

For now, Biden has promised to defend NATO countries with which the United States has a collective defence pact under Article 5 of the alliance. But Ukraine is not a NATO member, so US and European leaders have only threatened Russia with sanctions and isolation to dissuade it from invading.

On Tuesday, Germany halted the approval of Nord Stream 2, the Russian-owned $11bn gas pipeline across the Baltic Sea – a move that was lauded by Biden. But some US lawmakers want the project permanently scrapped – not just suspended. The US announced its own sanctions against the pipeline on Wednesday.

On Monday, former US ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst called Russia’s recognition of the independence of the two Ukrainian breakaway regions a “major escalation”, urging the Biden administration to start imposing serious sanctions on Moscow.

Herbst, who now serves as senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, told Al Jazeera at that time that if Washington does not start unrolling tough sanctions, it would be making the “same mistake” as in 2014, when Putin annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

“The question now is whether this is simply the latest escalation in a crisis that’s going to end soon, or if this is an escalation, which would be followed by more provocative actions. And we don’t know the answer to that,” Herbst said.


Related Articles

Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Israel: Unprecedented Civil Disobedience Looms as IDF Reservists Protest Judiciary Reform
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
Europe is boiling: Extreme Weather Conditions Prevail Across the Continent
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Italian Court's Controversial Ruling on Sexual Harassment Ignites Uproar
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.
BBC Personalities Rebuke Accusations Amidst Scandal Involving Teen Exploitation
A Swift Disappointment: Why Is Taylor Swift Bypassing Canada on Her Global Tour?
Historic Moment: Edgars Rinkevics, EU's First Openly Gay Head of State, Takes Office as Latvia's President
Bye bye democracy, human rights, freedom: French Cops Can Now Secretly Activate Phone Cameras, Microphones And GPS To Spy On Citizens
The Poor Man With Money, Mark Zuckerberg, Unveils Twitter Replica with Heavy-Handed Censorship: A New Low in Innovation?
Unilever Plummets in a $2.5 Billion Free Fall, to begin with: A Reckoning for Misuse of Corporate Power Against National Interest
Beyond the Blame Game: The Need for Nuanced Perspectives on America's Complex Reality
Twitter Targets Meta: A Tangle of Trade Secrets and Copycat Culture
The Double-Edged Sword of AI: AI is linked to layoffs in industry that created it
US Sanctions on China's Chip Industry Backfire, Prompting Self-Inflicted Blowback
Meta Copy Twitter with New App, Threads
The New French Revolution
BlackRock Bitcoin ETF Application Refiled, Naming Coinbase as ‘Surveillance-Sharing’ Partner