ADKINS: What can America and our allies do to stop Putin?

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Michael Adkins

President Biden was right and Putin did invade Ukraine. Unlike his predecessor, Biden correctly assessed the Russian despot. Unlike his predecessor, this president listened to his intelligence agencies. But why did Putin invade now, eight years after the fighting in east Ukraine began? Further, what can America and our allies do to stop Putin?

Putin made crystal clear what he wanted from the West; the ultimate dissolution of NATO, an increased zone of influence, and a buffer to western Europe. Putin fears NATO, especially after several former Soviet “republics” joined NATO after the fall of the Soviet Union, bringing the alliance to his Russian borders. From 2017 till 2021 Putin’s only efforts against NATO were continual disinformation campaigns designed to weaken the alliance. As long as President Trump belittled and disparaged our NATO nation allies, Vladimir Putin was satisfied that the defense alliance he feared was disintegrating. But with Trump gone and Ukraine announcing a desire to join NATO, Putin realized he had to act before the West healed it divisions in Europe.

Putin’s fear of the West is understandable. Russia suffered many invasions from western Europe throughout its history, Napoleon and Hitler merely the latest. And our history books omit the American incursion at Murmansk and Archangel in 1918 in support of counterrevolutionaries.

Western Europe does not want another war. The militaries of those member nations are in decline and rely too heavily on Americas’ assistance. Germany became too reliant on Russian fossil fuels. Simply stated, NATO is not ready to respond militarily and the risks of invoking nuclear war remain the greatest of deterrents. But Russia’s military, currently the second most powerful in the world, is not as prepared as you may think. Except for hypersonic weaponry, American military might hold every advantage over the Russian forces. While Russia cannot put its full military might against Ukraine because of defense needs elsewhere, it still holds a vast military edge against Ukraine. Nevertheless, even with a “shock and awe” campaign the invasion of Ukraine will be extremely costly to Russia, a nation whose economy is struggling. The U.S. economy produced as much in January as Russia’s will in a year.

Putin knows that the sanctions against his nation will be costly as well, yet he has most likely factored that into his decision and believes he can weather the economic impact. The question is, can the Russian people? Autocrats often overlook the fact that ignoring the suffering of their people can end up biting them in the rear.

America and 27 other nations announced serious sanctions which will result in financial difficulties for Russia and Putin personally. The European Union sanctioned every Russian lawmaker who voted for such recognition. The UK froze the assets of five Russian banks and three of Putin’s oligarch buddies, from which he gets much of his personal wealth. While Biden’s sanctions include more Russian “elites,” and the Russian military bank, the most severe sanction is that which cuts Russia off from western financing of its sovereign debt.

Further sanctions are promised but stopping the flow of gas and oil from Russia is unlikely as it would severely impact every nation’s economy. While Biden promised no American troops in Ukraine, you can expect a significant buildup of our troops in Europe. Putin may get what he wants; no Ukrainian alliance with NATO and a buffer to the West. But rest assured, he will pay a significant price.

Michael Adkins formerly was chair of the Hancock County Democratic Party.