As The G-7 Meets In The Hague, Russia Keeps Hurting Ukraine

The thousands of Russian troops that are building up along the Ukrainian border are concerning to us all. In light of this aggressive move, the Ukrainian government has made it clear that they are prepared for all out war, even though their preference remains for peaceful reconciliation.

If the past few months have taught us anything, it’s that the Russians aren’t particularly concerned – or even interested – in reconciliation, peaceful or not. Putin has his plans and he’s going to move forward with them. It’s now up to us to figure out what we are going to do to stop him.

A point that has been largely neglected, but is still hugely important, is that the Russians don’t need to physically invade Ukraine to make our ally feel the impact of their power.

There are a number of non-military tools in the Russians’ arsenal. For instance, the pro-Russian militias that are protesting across the nation, though more in eastern Ukraine, are wreaking havoc, often leading to violent confrontations. Russia’s role as the largest supplier of oil and gas to Ukraine – and to much of Europe – is another area where Putin is hitting Ukraine hard. Just this morning, Gazprom said that it’s going to raise prices on the energy resources they sell to Ukraine.

Against this backdrop, President Obama began a difficult few days of diplomacy in the Netherlands wherein he is seeking to rally the international community around efforts to isolate Russia following its incursion into Ukraine.

English: Barack Obama

English: Barack Obama (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Indeed, the members of the G-7, one nation down as Russia has been removed, are all united in their opposition to Putin’s push into Ukraine. In an interview with the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant published before Obama arrived Monday, Obama said that his message to European leaders is that Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to “understand the economic and political consequences of his actions in Ukraine.” None of his European counterparts have expressed anything different.

However, the crisis in Ukraine is more than just a test of seven nations uniting in theoretical opposition to Russia. Obama’s ability to forge a unified and forceful stance against Russia from European leaders who are alarmed by Putin’s moves but whose economies are dependent on Russian energy and trade will surely be tested.

It follows that the US and our European allies need to get a better grasp on what it is that they’re hoping to accomplish with sanctions. We have moved past the possibility of getting Crimea back so what can we legitimately hope to achieve?

Russian containment is surely atop the list. Any further moves into Ukraine – or any other nation for that matter – is a worthy and important objective.

We want to make Ukraine stronger to serve as a bulwark to bolster Russian containment. And we want to offer coordinated economic and military aid to the new Ukrainian government at this difficult time.

Reducing dependence on Russian oil and gas – in Ukraine and Europe – is another important objective, but one that will take some persuading on Obama’s part. Doing this requires time to put initiatives into place such as exporting more US natural gas. It also may require some resolutions to Middle East to open up more sources.

Tougher sanctions also serve to warn the Chinese they shouldn’t try the same in South China Sea. This will surely be a topic of conversation between Obama and President Xi when they meet in the Netherlands.

These are just some of the goals for tougher sanctions that we need to consider when shaping a plan going forward that will satisfy both US and European interests.

Weakening Putin will certainly take time and a lot of maneuvering, but it can be done if we set clear goals and objectives. Thus far, this hasn’t happened.