Sanctions aren't enough against Russia, Putin. Stop buying oil, gas to protect Ukraine.

The first conclusion to draw about the onset of war in Ukraine this week is that Russian President Vladimir Putin is, indeed, a very bad man – more interested in conquest, settling of personal scores, and righting what he sees as great historical wrongs against his country and its pride than building a prosperous Russia or a peaceful Europe. This war, at a moral level, is his and his alone.

The second conclusion to draw, however, is that we made mistakes that contributed to Putin’s rise and to the path that has now resulted in tragedy. Most of all, the 2008 decision of the Bush administration and NATO to offer Ukraine and Georgia membership in NATO some day – but with no timeline, no interim security guarantee and the stipulation that any new member would have to settle territorial disputes with neighbors before gaining eligibility. This painted a bullseye squarely on Ukraine’s back.

Putting a bulls-eye on Ukraine

That was not a mistake of malevolence or aggressiveness, but it was a serious strategic error. Being half-pregnant with NATO membership while living next to the Russian bear is really no place to be. Unfortunately, the Obama and Trump administrations didn’t change this policy and deserve at least a fraction of the responsibility.

A Ukrainian Army soldier inspects fragments of a downed aircraft in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. It was unclear what aircraft crashed and what brought it down amid the Russian invasion in Ukraine. Russia is pressing its invasion of Ukraine to the outskirts of the capital after unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending in troops and tanks from three sides.

A Ukrainian Army soldier inspects fragments of a downed aircraft in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. It was unclear what aircraft crashed and what brought it down amid the Russian invasion in Ukraine. Russia is pressing its invasion of Ukraine to the outskirts of the capital after unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending in troops and tanks from three sides.

But the key question of course is where do we go from here?

It is too soon to know the likely course of military events.

OUR VIEW: Americans must stand united in the face of Putin’s ‘sinister vision for the future’

Politically, we can hope that Putin would settle for a revision to the Ukrainian constitution that rules out the possibility of future NATO membership for that country and new elections in Ukraine to replace President Volodymyr Zelensky in exchange for Russian troop withdrawal. That is an unpalatable set of concessions, but probably the best we can realistically hope for.

But to help our Ukrainian friends achieve that, we need more leverage. Biden has been right not to threaten war against Russia. This crisis, however regrettable, is not worth the risk of World War III or a nuclear holocaust. However, the current strategy for economic sanctions is not punitive enough.

COLUMN: Tough oil sanctions would crush Russia and Putin, but Biden and Europe can’t use them

How can we keep buying oil and gas from a country whose leader is slicing up and bombarding large chunks of an independent, sovereign nation? It is not enough to deny Russia access to the international financial system, to freeze the bank accounts of key perpetrators of the current violence, to deny Russia certain western technologies and to prevent the Nord Stream 2 undersea gas pipeline from opening on schedule. We need a plan to go after existing oil and gas exports, upon which Russian depends for 60% of its total export earnings. Our goal, stated or unstated, should be to drive the Russian economy into recession for the rest of Putin’s presidency if need be – unless he promptly agrees to be peaceful and take his forces home.

Transitioning from Russian energy

As David Victor, a fellow Brookings resident, and I argued in a recent oped, achieving an energy decoupling will take work and time – and it will cost money. NATO and western nations will need to do the following:

►Increase oil and gas production in North America and elsewhere.

►Build more liquid natural gas terminals in western Europe.

►Empower relevant gas authorities in Europe to pay higher prices for non-Russian gas.

►And, where possible, accelerate transitions to greener energy sources.

Depending on the course of military action, we may also need to consider arming a Ukrainian insurgency that fights an escalated Russian occupation. And we may need to permanently station at least one American Army combat brigade team in the Baltic states. Estonia and Latvia each have roughly 25% Russian-speaking populations. That makes those states potential targets for Putin’s next assault, since he has claimed the right to protect, as he defines it, Russian speakers wherever they might be.

COLUMN: Russian sanctions are more important following the attack. The world must hold firm.

It may be too soon for military escalation. But it’s not too soon to develop and articulate an energy transition plan. Putin, who doubts our collective toughness in the West, must know that we are willing to pay the costs associated with weaning ourselves completely off Russian hydrocarbons if necessary. Making that threat credible is the most promising way to end this war of aggression quickly and humanely.

Michael O’Hanlon is the Philip H. Knight Chair in Defense and Strategy and director of research, Foreign Policy Program, Brookings Institution.

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to [email protected]

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How to help Ukrain and hurt Russia: Stop buying oil and gas

source: yahoo.com