johnson150_Nicolas EconomouNurPhoto via Getty Images_charles michel eu embargo Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Europe Can Stop Russia’s Aggression Now

Russia’s aggression in Ukraine can still be stopped without damaging the world economy. But unless the EU can get the job done properly, the world faces the risk of a prolonged and much broader conflict, in which the Russian military becomes sufficiently emboldened – or humiliated – to use nuclear weapons.

WASHINGTON, DC – Western sanctions have failed to stop Russian aggression in Ukraine twice over the past decade, once after 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Crimea and stoked violent separatism in the eastern Donbas region, and again since the invasion on February 24. The economic policy debate has identified exactly what would be most effective: not just an oil embargo like the one the European Union just announced, but also a high tariff designed to slash the revenue Russia receives from its oil exports.

Russia can still be stopped without slowing the world economy. But unless the EU can get the job done properly, the world faces the risk of a prolonged and much broader conflict, in which the Russian military becomes sufficiently emboldened – or humiliated – to use nuclear weapons.

The idea behind sanctions is to damage the Russian economy so much that President Vladimir Putin’s regime withdraws from Ukraine and, more broadly, abandons its aggressive expansionist policy. Russia’s economy is based largely on the export to Europe of fossil fuels, primarily oil and natural gas. Unfortunately, current indications are that the Europeans may again fail to deliver on policies that target the regime’s fossil-fuel revenues. While the oil embargo that the EU has now announced will likely damage Russian revenues once it’s fully in place, oil prices may remain elevated for now, and Russia will continue to sell about the same amount, resulting in higher revenues to fund Putin’s war. The result will be continued Russian brutality in Ukraine, where the Kremlin is clearly targeting civilians and essential infrastructure.

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