Stop Putin’s Oil and the War Ends | Informed dissent | Detroit
After spending the last week earning my Ph.D. in Kremlinology from Google University, I will now explain how to quickly pull Russia out of Ukraine without escalating the war into a continental or global or nuclear fight.
Alright, I won’t. I’m not sure there is a good solution, let alone a quick one. If Russia did not have a nuclear arsenal capable of annihilating life on Earth, Vladimir Putin would not have dared to thumb his nose at NATO. If the West had not pressured Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons in the 1990s, Russian forces would not be (slowly) heading towards Kiev. Then again, if an unstable and often corrupt breakaway Soviet republic had retained its nuclear weapons at the time, who knows what might have happened?
The pundits I read and follow seem to think that Putin has already lost, at least in terms of long-term geopolitical goals. Economic sanctions — which he equated this weekend with an act of war — will devastate the Russian economy. The Russian military has proven both inept – bogged down before reaching Kiev, its supply lines dwindling – and brutal, committing war crimes broadcast live on the internet. “Winning” Ukraine will commit the Russians to fighting a years-long insurgency backed by Western money and weapons (and secret agents) while leaving the country isolated – except, perhaps, from China.
To understand how badly things are going for the Kremlin, just look at the country’s devolution from authoritarianism to totalitarianism in a week, with dissent outlawed, protesters arrested and sentenced to long prison terms and independent media banned. This is not the kind of thing that countries do that have fair and victorious campaigns.
For the first time since September 12, 2001, the West is unified against a common enemy in a conflict with little moral gray area.
That wasn’t the plan.
Putin’s investment in Donald Trump was designed to weaken NATO, softening the ground for an expansion of Russian power in Ukraine. If Trump had been re-elected, according to former national security adviser John Bolton, he would have abandoned the alliance. And it should be noted that Trump was first impeached for threatening to withdraw defensive weapons from Ukraine unless the Ukrainian president smeared Trump’s political opponent.
Trump hasn’t just spent his presidency disrupting Western alliances. He also acted as Putin’s propagandist: pushing for Russia to join the G-8, defending Putin’s invasion and annexation of Crimea, and praising him as strong. Trump supporters have also found a fellow traveler in the ex-KGB man. “Christian” Leader Franklin Graham applauded Putin’s crackdown on the LGBTQ community, and Tucker Carlson accused Ukraine of being a “pure US State Department client state”.
But Trump is now down to discuss global affairs with an aging pro golfer and thinking of frame China for attacks on Russia – which is, to be fair, the kind of strategy I could have devised in sixth grade. While the West has good reason not to give Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy the no-fly zone he wants – a real act of war against an increasingly desperate nuclear enemy may not end well – the other two requests he did in Congress on a Zoom call last week have merit.
Number one: give them jets – surplus Warsaw Pact jets made in Russia, precisely. There’s no reason not to. Second: embargo on Russian oil and gas.
That, as Oleg Ustenko explains in Project unionwould condemn Putin’s military adventurism, and most likely the regime itself.
Ustenko writes: “Russia continues to export oil and gas. Indeed, the war has pushed up the price of these products, benefiting the most important sector of the Russian economy. Thus, a week after its start, Western energy consumption is still financing the Russian invasion. of Ukraine, and the Russian elite is doing better than ever. There is no getting around it: the only way to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression is to impose a full boycott of all Russian energy products.
In January, oil and gas tariffs accounted for nearly half of Russia’s budget. If they leave, the government will collapse.
It seems like a no-brainer. The United States could impose a sanctions regime that, if fully implemented, would prevent Russian oil producers from taking advantage of supply shortages. The problem: the price. The price of oil, which has been skyrocketing since the start of the Ukrainian crisis, would soar, raising prices at the pump. The Biden administration, which has tried to assuage inflation concerns, is suddenly expected to face $4.50/gallon of gasoline until production elsewhere starts. And, of course, today’s most hawkish Republican will blame Biden for his F-450’s gasoline. bill tomorrow.
A real embargo would also oblige the European Union to play the game, and the EU is very dependent on Russian natural gas. There are ways to achieve this goal, especially in the short term. But they won’t be easy or cheap, and sacrifice in the name of distant humanitarianism is no easy political sell, whatever the cause.
If we – as a country, as a civilization – were able to take a longer-term view, it would be yet another lesson in the urgent need to move away from fossil fuels. Beyond the fact that burning them literally kills our planet, their production tends to enrich and empower the worst. (It’s hard to imagine a war over solar panels.) As long as there is oil, blood will flow to make it flow, whether in the Middle East or Eastern Europe.
Get more at billman.substack.com.