It is one of the worst security crises in Europe in decades. The U.S. and its allies are stepping up sanctions to pressure Russia to keep troops from deploying further into Ukraine. Efforts are underway to keep this crisis from escalating into an all-out conflict.
“He (Putin) has amassed enough troops to be able to invade the entire country, but then faced a wall of tough sanctions, unprecedented sanctions including gas and banking targeting the leadership between both the U.S. and the EU,” said Nancy Soderberg, former UN Ambassador. “And that brick wall of sanctions I think made him blink and say well maybe I won’t go all the way to Kyiv. I’ll just do this smaller invasion of a sovereign territory for the second time.”
Russia has been tightening its military grip around Ukraine since last year. It’s been amassing hundreds of thousands of troops as well as equipment and artillery on Ukraine’s doorstep. And after months of military buildup and brinkmanship, Russia started ratcheting up pressure on its ex-Soviet neighbor, threatening to destabilize Europe and draw in the United States.
Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized two parts of sovereign Ukraine as independent. President Joe Biden and a number of European nations put sanctions in place. More may come depending on how far Putin goes.
“The SWIFT banking is basically kicking Russia out of the Western banking system, turning off that north stream gas pipeline to Germany,” said Soderberg. “The fact that we’ve agreed to sort of say this is what you’re going to face if you do this has given him pause. What he’s doing is testing the west to see whether he can cut Europe off and have lesser sanctions.”
The trump card to stop Putin from making further moves may be from the EU and SWIFT making it difficult for financial institutions to send money in and out of the country.
“It’s a very tense situation,” Soderberg said. “Anything could happen any moment.”
Soderberg believes the door to diplomacy remains open.
“Diplomacy is never dead. People can always step back from the brink, they can go in and step back,” the former UN Ambassador said. “People can always step back from the brink, they can go in and step back. So diplomacy will absolutely remain part of this.”
“But if President Putin has decided to go into Ukraine, there’s really not that much to talk about. We just have to make sure that he feels a very tough stick for those actions,” added Nancy Soderberg.
If this is not resolved the end result could be a bloody war that changes the face of Europe. Soderberg said Putin’s ultimate goal is to reassemble the former USSR and there is little doubt he is testing Biden and the bond with the coalition of western NATO nations.
“Absolutely,” said Soderberg. “And I think he’s found a brick wall there.”
“You have diplomacy from the French, the Germans, the US. We’re all trying to send one clear message and I think that’s getting through,” Soderberg said.
Soderberg said the sanctions are not enough to stop Putin and he decides to go ahead with a full-blown invasion he will face “unprecedented sanctions and costs.” She maintains it is clear the U.S. and the West are willing to take a stand on this even if it hits “our pocketbooks” because they will not let Putin destabilize democracy.