I’ve been thinking about the similarities between this moment and the moment after 9/11. In both cases, foreign attacks provoked fierce American outrage. After 9/11, that righteous indignation constricted public debate. I’m not even talking about the debate over invading Iraq. Think back to the debate over invading Afghanistan. Because the Taliban was so odious, because it deserved to be overthrown, Americans found it extremely difficult to question the wisdom of doing so. No one wanted to be accused of despising the Taliban less than everyone else. So not enough people (myself included) asked hard questions about America’s strategy. In this moment of justified fury at Vladimir Putin, I fear that’s happening again today.
Hello, you describe president Maduro of Venezuela as a “dictator”, that is completely untrue as he was fairly elected by the Venezuelan people. The USA and its mindless allies would rather have an extreme right wing puppet instead. The murder and mayhem caused to the people of South America over many years by this policy of regime change to fascist puppets carried out by the USA and its allies is a disgrace.
"... sanctions helped sink Venezuela’s per capita GDP by more than sixty percent between 2017 and 2021, yet the country’s dictator Nicolas Maduro, remains in power."
It ill-becomes a citizen of a country with an electoral college and just two parties, both fanatically capitalist, to complain about a lack of democracy elsewhere.
Thanks again, Peter, for insightful and wise commentary. You are a mensch.
For once, I fully agree with Peter
The real problem that sanctions cannot fix is this: the Russian invasion of Ukraine was completely avoidable. It's the ultimate result of a US foreign policy fixated on boxing Russia into a corner in the vain hope that it would submit to the mighty US, a great game played out in Eurasia. I get that any nation's foreign policy wants to advance that nation's interest, but a realistic foreign policy must consider the possible outcomes of implementing any agenda. It beggars the imagination that the US, knowing that Russia drew a red line with Ukraine admission into NATO, did not consider the likelihood that Russia would ultimately respond with military force to the US's repeated pressure to cleave Ukraine from Russia and align it with the West, with the door wide open for NATO admission. Reality has now smacked this country in the face, and sanctions are a last hail mary attempt to salvage another foreign policy blunder rooted in hubris instead of reality. The US doesn't have a clue what sanctions will accomplish, they are a placeholder until the country comes to grips with the hard reality of what it must concede to avoid a nuclear catastrophe. It's no longer a unipolar US world, and the sooner we accept that reality, the better off all of us will be.
I'm puzzled why the options presented are simply to impose sanctions or lift them. As I understand it, the US and its allies have imposed an unprecedentedly broad array of sanctions. Why can't President Biden announce that certain, specified sanctions will be lifted upon Ukraine and Russia reaching an agreement that results in an effective cease fire, but that other sanctions will remain in place until Russia withdraws fully, up to and including (depending on what the Ukraine government deems in its best interests) restoration of the status quo ante. (A reasonable modification would be status quo ante with a guarantee for a neutrally-monitored referendum in Crimea, which might well lead to a de jure shift that aligns with the existing de facto one.)
With the enormous leverage that unprecedented sanctions provides, I don't see any reason the allies must trade it all on a best-available-now basis, when Ukraine is negotiating with a loaded gun already firing at its head.
A fantastic, enlightening piece. I wonder, don’t the sanctions also affect the Middle East nations who import Russian wheat, basically relying on it for survival? In which case, that area could become more destabilized? Or is that more a result of the invasion itself?
I find it odd that Professor Beinart objects to sanctions on the Russian people while proposing Zionist sanctions on goods made in the West Bank. Yes, we know of the double standard vis-a-vis Israel in the international liberal agenda. Never mind.
Moving on to the crux of the issue will this help or hurt the Ukraine war? The reality is that Putin miscalculated, and he is likely to face regime change from within as a result, as every Russian leader since 1900 has experienced. This happened after Afghanistan, Cuba and you can keep going back in time. The sanctions job is to simply reinforce and hasten this decision among the generals who have been embarrassed by Putin and his gang and lay bare the Russian army whose funding has been diverted to Putin's cronies.