Cripple Russia now

23 February, 12:43 PM

If Russia was a dog -- circling, biting, snarling, and baring its teeth at a cornered victim -- the best recourse would be to injure it to avert an attack. Merely threatening to shoot it would be pointless. Doing nothing would simply embolden the beast and immobilize the victim. 

And yet this is what the West is doing: threatening to injure Russia with “swift and severe” sanctions only after it invades and destroys its prey. That’s not only irrational but a sign of weakness that has given Vladimir Putin a green light to stay his destructive course.

Now Russia must be injured before, not after, it attacks. Each and every act of war it perpetuates — escalation, cyberattacks, intimidation, shelling, bombing, and other provocations — must be punished. Cripple Russia now.

Video of day

The press coverage and information war waged by Western governments have played into Putin’s hands, becoming part of his toolbox.

One day, President Joe Biden predicts an “imminent” invasion of Ukraine, then shifts to “Putin has decided to invade” and is followed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson claims Russia “plans the biggest war in Europe since 1945”.

Warnings serve his purpose of intimidation by amplifying anxiety and destroying markets, economies, and morale. Putin is already winning, as I wrote days ago, without firing a shot.

The media is unhelpful because it faithfully regurgitates Russian disinformation even though it is fiction: “Separatists” in Eastern Ukraine are battling a predatory Kyiv which is why people must “flee” Eastern Ukraine for Russia. The fact is that the separatists are Russian-paid mercenaries who have occupied that territory since it was illegally seized by Moscow in 2014.

Even so, the media calls them “separatists” and hosts continuous will-he-or-won’t-he-invade panel discussions. All this allows Putin to wreak havoc on his foes.

Troops pulled back then redeployed by Putin. Fortunately, Biden has unified NATO and Europe — a task akin to herding cats — but the failure to counter punch is why the world is now watching this slow-motion geopolitical train wreck. The West must make firm demands, tied to deadlines that, if unmet, will immediately result in disastrous punishments.

As Ukraine’s distraught President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded last week at the Munich Security Conference “What are you waiting for?...with a crushing national currency, capital leaving, how can you live and have stability?”

 If not, the first “leg” must be shot: Russia’s banking system must be banned from using US dollars and the SWIFT electronic payments system. Then shelling, shooting, and bombing in the occupied area of Ukraine, staged by Russian mercenaries, must cease, or if these do not, the other “leg” will be shot and sanctions will be imposed on all Russian corporations followed by massive tariffs imposed on all Russian exports.

Furthermore, any more territorial incursions, naval blockades, cyberattacks, sabotage schemes, or assassinations in Ukraine or Europe will result in personal sanctions against Putin and his inner circle as well as bans preventing all Russians from traveling or obtaining visas, to America, European countries, and NATO member nations, for any purpose.

And Ukraine, Washington, and the European Union should immediately ask the United Nations General Assembly to expel Russia for persistently violating the Charter. Even if this unlikely request is denied, the attempt is needed to isolate, contain and forever stain Russia. Some believe he should be prosecuted as a war criminal.

“Already he’s behaving like a war criminal,” said retired General Wesley Clark recently. “He faces no threats and what he’s doing is totally illegal. No one should offer any concessions or off-ramps because Putin fabricated this crisis and it’s all his fault.”

The West’s reluctance, and NATO’s, is why the world is at this dramatic inflection point.

Putin’s marauded for years and created so-called “frozen conflicts” or illegal occupations that damage and destabilize Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Ukraine. Ironically, Putin is correct that NATO represents a threat to European security — but not because it threatens Russia but because it doesn’t and has never forcefully protected Europe from Russia.

Russia’s frozen conflicts

Significantly, Russia’s comrade-of-convenience, China weighed in as the Olympics was coming to an end, in contrast to its limp and vague support for Russia at the outset of the Olympics. This is because China is not a marauder, needs a functioning global economy, and does enormous business with the United States and Europe. It also has invested heavily in Ukraine where it is building infrastructure and buying agricultural and other commodities. So it was not surprising, and hugely telling, when China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi dialed into last week’s Munich Security Conference and said: “The sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of any country should be respected and safeguarded. Ukraine is no exception.”

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That pulls the rug out from under Russia and is all the more reason why countermeasures to punish and stop Russia must be launched immediately. Shooting the legs out from under Putin will stop him cold, not cause a nuclear war. He will simply say he never intended to invade and that his military exercises are over and his troops will return to base.

He will suffer no loss of face at home but be celebrated among his cronies for the damage he has already inflicted. And the Russian people, who are as brainwashed and abused as are Russian figure skaters, will do nothing.

If America and Europe had retaliated after every single Russian escalation, dating back to the June summit, the world would not be in this situation. Last summer, Biden told Putin to stop cyberattacks, but they continued and remained unchallenged. Then in August, when Russia began weaponizing energy and driving prices sky-high, Biden should have reversed his decision to waive US sanctions against Russia’s gas pipeline to Germany. He didn’t.

By pulling punches, the West has handed control over to Putin. Now united, and with China onside, Russia must be stopped. It is a rabid dog, not a country, that must be grievously injured and eventually destroyed. Starting now.

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