Choosing a response to Russian aggression: sanctions, cyber operations and allied unity

Experts at the Brookings Institution discuss exactly how the West should respond to the seizure of Ukrainian sailors by Moscow

In Washington, the voices of experts and political scientists are being heard more and more insistently, claiming that Russia should be held responsible for the attack on Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait and the arrest of Ukrainian servicemen. The United States, amid Europe’s sluggish response, could become a country that really responds to this move by Moscow – if politicians follow the advice from experts in international relations and security.

At the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, at the December 12 conference on How the Transatlantic Alliance Should Resist Russian Aggression, The Weekly Standart editor Bill Kristol asked: “What is the entire arsenal of tools that we could use to to make Mr Putin’s life miserable? We do not have to respond to all his actions in the same area in which he takes them, that is, it is not necessary to respond to his actions against Ukraine with something related specifically to Ukraine, and to his actions in Syria – with the Middle East ? “
According to Bill Kristol, “we have many ways to make Putin’s life much less pleasant – I mean, say, the use of targeted measures in the cyber sphere to make his financial transactions, as well as the convenience of the financial sphere for use by him and his friends. -oligarchs, extremely difficult “.
“This can be done with the help of sanctions, but also with covert operations,” the journalist added..

Bill Kristola was supported by Alina Polyakova, a researcher at the Brookings Institution: “It could have been done in the style of the Panama Papers leaks, which I’m sure were actually intelligence-led leaks. There were many reports that it was almost hitting the target, because the situation in Russia now is such that even opposition fighters against corruption in Russia itself never speak personally about Putin himself: they know that the consequences will be such, that under their very lives would be a threat. But it is clear that this is a real pain point, and it is clear that in such actions our intelligence community will be able to make a serious impact. “.
Alina Polyakova also noted the need to respond to the information war unleashed by Russia with a much larger presence in the media. At the same time, the Brookings Institution researcher recalled effective Russian-language media of the Cold War times, such as Voice of America and Radio Liberty. According to the expert, the role of these media in the current information environment could be greater, and their support from the US government could be much more tangible..

Choosing a response to Russian aggression: sanctions, cyber operations and allied unity

However, there were also talks about open actions that would be Russia’s response to its actions in the Kerch Strait. Former NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow reiterated his earlier proposal to close European ports for Russian ships until the Ukrainian sailors and ships on which they sailed to the Sea of ​​Azov are returned to Ukraine.
“It could also be a shock for Putin if the Germans surprised everyone and, if not completely stopped the Nord Stream 2 project, then at least suspended it until the problems with the situation in Ukraine are resolved and the Minsk agreements are not fulfilled. … We could strongly suggest that they do this, but if they nevertheless decide not to do this, then it is possible to impose sanctions against the companies involved in the construction of Nord Stream 2, – suggested Alexander Vershbow.

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Andrea Kendall-Taylor, director of the Transatlantic Program at the Center for a New American Security, called for sanctions that would affect a wide range of people associated with the Russian president: “The current presidential term of Vladimir Putin will last until 2024, and of course , he can extend his tenure in power and find ways to preserve it, but even in dictatorships this is an important moment when everyone is waiting for the ruler to announce what his plans for the future are. And in Russia at this moment most of the elite, at least, will try to look around and understand who exactly will be the best defender of its interests “.
“If sanctions are costly for the elite, then their loyalty is still weakened, and I think that sanctions that hurt the elite could better prepare us for unforeseen circumstances,” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor.
In an interview with the Russian service of the Voice of America, Andrea Kendall-Taylor made a reservation that just looking for money from the Russian elite is not an answer to all questions: “It would be nice to influence the financial resources that help Russian aggression – Prigozhin, Rotenbergs – but that’s still Not all. Finding money from Putin and the Russian elite, of course, we hurt their interests, but it should be noted that Putin has found ways of relatively cheap external operations: I think that all their actions in Ukraine and Georgia cost them less than 2% of GDP. Information operations are also not too expensive “.
An expert from the Center for New American Security emphasized the need for united action by the West: “Perhaps the most important thing in our response to Russia’s actions is the coordination of our steps with our partners in Europe. It is a coordinated response that can be an effective deterrent: if we look at what happened after the poisoning of the Skripals in Britain, we can see that the Russian authorities were very surprised by the united response from the West. There is a whole range of measures: an increase in NATO’s presence in the Black Sea, an increase in military assistance to Ukraine, including assistance to its fleet “.

Choosing a response to Russian aggression: sanctions, cyber operations and allied unity
  • Danila Galperovich

    Reporter for the Russian Service «Voices of America» in Moscow. Collaborates with «Voice of America» since 2012. For a long time he worked as a correspondent and presenter of programs in the Russian service of the BBC and «Radio Liberty». Specialization – international relations, politics and legislation, human rights.


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