The Russian Federation has stepped up its military attack against Ukraine once again. Over 15,000 people have died safeguarding Ukraine’s freedom and democratic choice since 2014, more than 1.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes, and occupied Ukrainian areas have been turned into repressive and torturing zones with no freedom of speech or rule of law. More lives are at risk as a result of the latest escalation. It also has an impact on regional and global security, as well as Europe’s and the world’s political and economic stability.
You can assist.
- Russian warfare includes disinformation. Look for news that is both dependable and fact-checked.
- Use the proper terminology.
- Russian forces in Ukraine are invaders, not “peacekeepers.”
- The so-called “L/DPR” in eastern Ukraine are Russian puppet republics, not “self-declared republics” or “breakaway areas.”
- The invading forces are Russian-led, financed, and led proxy forces, not “Russia-backed separatists” or “rebels.”
- Share as much factual information as you can regarding Russian aggression.
- No information about the movement of Ukraine’s Armed Forces should be posted.
- Make contact with your legislators and urge them to support sanctions against the Russian Federation.
- To avoid supporting the aggressor’s economy, boycott Russian goods and services. It is beneficial to attend or organize a rally in favor of Ukraine in your city.
- You can donate money to the Ukrainian army and volunteers who are defending their country against the invasion.
Will the West be able to prevent Putin from invading Ukraine?
Yes, if we understand why he’s doing what he’s doing in the first place.
Putin has been a tyrant for more than two decades, during which time Russia has faced numerous challenges, including a stagnating economy, the greatest wealth gap of any major country, and widespread despondency afflicting millions of regular residents. Over the last two years, COVID-19 has further compounded these issues. As a result, Putin’s approval ratings are at an all-time low, hovering in the mid-sixties. He used to be able to blame these faults on his predecessor or other circumstances in the early years of his presidency, but now it’s all on him.
In a circumstance like this, a dictator’s typical strategy is to stoke nationalism and initiate a war to divert his people. Putin is threatening to invade Ukraine because of this. In addition to rallying Russians behind their leader, his plans for Ukraine satisfy certain romantic conceptions of resurrecting the Soviet empire’s golden days.
Putin, despite his outward characteristics, is a completely reasonable individual. He sees everything via the risk-reward prism. Higher approval ratings and a lesser risk of being deposed by a competitor are among the benefits of his Ukrainian adventure. What is the response of the West? A few sanctions, expulsion from the G-8, and the expulsion of a few diplomats are all on the table.
Because of the West’s weakness, Putin believes he can do whatever he wants with little or no repercussions. The West now appears to be caught between more appeasement and a probable military conflict, which no one wants.
There is, however, a way to put an end to Putin’s Ukrainian folly that does not involve military action. That is, to pursue his funds.
Putin has plundered vast sums of money from the Russian government, corporations, ordinary Russian residents, and even outsiders like me since assuming power. I believe he is the world’s richest man, having amassed at least $200 billion in personal wealth since 2000, and possibly considerably more.
Putin does not have any of the funds in his name. If he did, the evidence may be used to blackmail him and undermine his authority. He has used material like this to blackmail individuals numerous times as a former KGB operative. Putin instead keeps his money in the hands of cutouts known as “oligarch trustees.” When you see particular Russian oligarchs listed as worth $10, $15, or $20 billion dollars on Forbes’ list of billionaires, keep in mind that not all of that money is theirs. Vladimir Putin, I believe, owns at least half of it, if not more.
This money does not stay in Russia with these oligarchs. They retain it in the West instead. They buy houses in the south of France, football teams in the United Kingdom, ski chalets in the Swiss Alps, and boats and private jets to crisscross the globe using accounts in London, New York, and Zurich.
Putin’s Achilles’ heel is this.
When we examine the policy alternatives under consideration by the Biden Administration in response to Putin’s created Ukraine crisis, we find that many are either too indirect or too harsh. Some, such as sweeping sanctions, will cause a slew of unnecessarily difficult circumstances for regular Russians, who are as much victims of Putin as anyone else.
There has also been talk of Russia being kicked out of SWIFT, the global banking system that facilitates money transfers. This is exactly what the United States did to Iran, relegating them to the stone age economically. This would be a catastrophic blow for Russia, but it might also have serious financial consequences for the West. This, in my opinion, should be saved for the worst-case scenario.
The United States has issued sanctions that would limit Russia’s capacity to grow its oil and gas industry. These are the kinds of issues that a long-term thinker would be concerned about, but Putin is too focused with his own short-term survival to consider them. Furthermore, he is unaffected by these restrictions.
This brings us full circle to Putin’s fortune. The Magnitsky Act (named after my assassinated Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky) is a measure that can be used to stop Putin in his tracks.
The Magnitsky Act permits the US government to freeze the assets of anyone involved in grand corruption or human rights violations, as well as prohibit them from traveling. These have disastrous consequences. Anyone on the US Treasury’s Magnitsky List is practically a financial pariah who can no longer do business with anyone, anywhere in the world. This is the government’s power in the United States.
Sanctioning Putin may be symbolic, but sanctioning his oligarch trustees would be quite practical. It’s not hard to figure out who they are, and proving that they’ve been involved in high-level corruption is simple.
So, where do we go from here? To begin, President Biden should compile a list of Putin’s top 50 oligarch trustees and penalize five of them immediately. This would demonstrate to Putin that the US is not playing games. Second, President Biden should set Putin a 10-day deadline to withdraw from Ukraine’s border, or five more oligarchs will face sanctions. If Putin invades Ukraine, the US will make it clear that they will penalize the entire list of these 50 oligarchs, followed by a fresh list of 50 oligarchs.
Any Russian dissident or opposition leader will tell you that this method is the only way to stop Putin. The Magnitsky Act functions similarly to a modern-day cancer treatment. Rather than nearly killing the patient in order to target the disease, it directly targets the malignancy.
When I discuss this technique, most people wonder why the United States isn’t doing it already. I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think President Biden wants to do this on his own. Unfortunately, Putin’s network has dispersed money among politicians and opinion leaders throughout Europe, making it nearly impossible for Europe to unite to adopt a harsh position against Russia. I like Biden’s commitment to multilateralism, but I believe this is a scenario in which the US can achieve 80% of its objectives by acting alone, potentially averting a war before it begins.
Is this going to work? I believe it will, and there isn’t much risk in trying. Putin will be offended, but that is just the idea. Furthermore, it is vastly superior to any spilled blood.
The Magnitsky Act should be implemented right now to halt Putin’s progress.
Why Putin with Russian aggression has lost the war already
Vladimir Putin appears to be on the verge of a historic defeat less than a week after the war. Even if he wins every battle, he will still lose the war. The idea that Ukraine is not a nation, that Ukrainians are not a real people, and that citizens of Kiev, Kharkov, and Lvov desire to dominate Moscow has always been a part of Putin’s fantasy of restoring the Russian Empire. This is a blatant fabrication; Ukraine is a country with over a thousand years of history, and Kiev was a major city when Moscow was not even close to being a town. The Russian autocrat, on the other hand, has uttered his falsehood so many times that he appears to believe it himself.
When it came to putting an end to the war, Putin could rely on a number of well-known facts. He was well aware that Russia was defying the command militarily. NATO would not send soldiers to the division, he knew. He was well aware that a European with ties to Russian oil and gas would make Germany wary of imposing tough penalties. Based on these known facts, his strategy was to destroy her fast and decisively, assassinate her leaders, install a puppet administration in Kiev, and lift Western sanctions.
This approach, however, had a major flaw. It is much easier to invade a country than to keep it there, as the Americans realized in Iraq and the Soviets in Afghanistan. Putin was well aware of his ability to influence the situation. Will the Ukrainian people, on the other hand, turn Moscow into a puppet? Putin is confident that they will. After all, Ukraine isn’t a genuine country, and Ukrainians aren’t real people, as he recently noted. People in Crimea had a difficult time resisting Russian invaders in 2014. Why should the year 2022 be any different?
With each passing day, it becomes more apparent that Putin’s gamble has failed. The Ukrainian people are resolutely resisting, gaining worldwide acclaim – and ultimately winning the fight. There will be many dark days ahead. The Russians continue to invade everyone. However, if the Russians are to win the war, they must maintain the opposition, which they can only accomplish if the Ukrainian people consent. This appears to be more unlikely.
Every Russian tank on standby and every Russian soldier killed the Ukrainians’ will to fight back. And every Ukrainian assassinated every Ukrainian’s anger for the invaders. The most repulsive feeling is hatred. Hatred, on the other hand, is a secret treasure for oppressed nations. It can appear for generations buried in the heart. Putin needs a bloodless triumph that leads to a final invasion without hatred in order to rebuild the Russian empire. Putin is looking to see if his ambition of shedding a lot of Ukrainian blood would ever come true. Putin’s name will be printed on the Russian Empire’s death certificate, not Mikhail Gorbachev’s. Putin has turned on Ukraine, insisting that the country define itself in terms of Russia from now on.
Nations are, in the end, unaffected by history. Every day, Ukrainians will make more history, not just in the last few days, but in the decades and generations that have passed. President who refused to leave the capital, telling the US that the country needed ammo, not car laps; island soldiers who told a Russian battleship to “go drink”; residents who sought to halt Russian tanks from approaching. This is the stuff that countries are formed of. Many people believe that these stories are more important than tanks.
The Russian dictator, like everyone else, should be aware of this. He grew up hearing stories about German brutality and Russian fortitude during the Leningrad siege. He’s now writing similar stories, but this time he’s playing Hitler.
Not only do stories of Ukrainian bravery inspire Ukrainians, but they inspire people all around the world. They instill bravery in European governments, American administrations, and even Russia’s oppressed. If the Ukrainians dare to build a tank with their bare hands, the German government may dare to supply them with anti-tank missiles, and the US government may dare to prohibit Russia from launching Swift and useless missiles.
We may all be inspired to welcome refugees or fight online, even if it’s just a donation. In the end, war shapes the entire world’s future. We shall all suffer if tyranny and brutality are tolerated. It’s pointless to stay on the sidelines. It’s time to make a choice.