Responding to the idea that the West and the Biden administration might impose sanctions on Russia if they invade Ukraine, Russia’s ambassador to Sweden said over the weekend that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government “don’t give a s*** about all their sanctions.”
Viktor Tatarintsev boasted to Sweden’s Aftonbladet newspaper, “We are more self-sufficient and have been able to increase our exports. We have no Italian or Swiss cheeses, but we’ve learned to make just as good Russian cheeses using Italian and Swiss recipes.” He added, “Excuse my language, but we don’t give a s*** about all their sanctions. We have already had so many sanctions and in that sense they’ve had a positive effect on our economy and agriculture. New sanctions are nothing positive but not as bad as the West makes it sound,” The Daily Mail reported.
The Biden administration has threatened to impose sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine; last week, Daleep Singh, the deputy national security adviser for international economics for the Biden administration, told NPR, “We’ve said if Russia sends a troop or tank across the border, we’re prepared to impose the most severe sanctions ever levied against Russia, and so are our allies and partners.”
On Sunday, Great Britain’s defense secretary, Ben Wallace, told the Sunday Times an invasion of Ukraine by Russia was “highly likely,” adding, “It may be that he [Putin] just switches off his tanks and we all go home but there is a whiff of Munich in the air from some in the West.”
The worrying thing is that despite the massive amount of increased diplomacy, that military build-up has continued. It has not paused, it has continued. … Russia has a formidable armed forces that would have an air defense and [anti-aircraft] capability. The Taliban had lots of things but it didn’t have that. Any force that does an invasion like that will close the air space because it will shoot down any fighter that it doesn’t like, so it’s not going to be an environment that you do that, even if you wanted to. I think it is important to say that the proximity and the scale of the Russian maneuvers has a risk that there is an invasion, and that would be risky to your families, so if you want to take a precaution, you should leave.
Wallace warned Putin, “I have always said that funding should be linked to the threat. If the threat grows, the prime minister has shown he is very open to further discussions … I think what I can guarantee the president in Russia is that if he were to invade the Ukraine, two things would happen that he doesn’t want to happen. One is he would see an increase of NATO forces on his borders, because countries such as the Baltic states and neighboring countries would be much more fearful of the instability that has happened. The second thing is, I guarantee that across 30 allies it would trigger more defense spending and therefore a more capable adversary or defender from Russia. And if you are thinking about your strategic interests as Russia, you surely don’t really want that.”
Speaking of Putin’s prior aggression against Georgia and the Crimea, Wallace asserted, “The western response was particularly muted, which is why he doesn’t seem to think there were many consequences the first time around. You can’t quite say that of Britain. After the Skripals, we led the charge that led to an international response to expelling 153 Russian intelligence officers around the world. Britain was the first nation to provide lethal assistance to the Ukraine in Europe and we were swiftly supported by a number of European countries — some of them very small with not much to give. … I definitely have a genuine fear about what it means for European security. The potential of millions of displaced people — refugees — pouring from one European country to another hasn’t been seen since the war and could potentially have a massive impact.”
I worry about why a president of Russia would do this when he doesn’t need to, and what that says about him as a leader and where he thinks his future is, and what else he has an eye on — when in his own essay he wrote last July he makes it clear he has his eye on quite a lot more than just Ukraine. If that is his disposition and his view of the world and he acts on it, and Europe either does nothing about it or he is successful, he will go somewhere else, potentially. So I think we have to be really worried about what it means about the future of the Russian government and what they really think about the world and its relationship with Europe.
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