Tag Archives: U.S.-Russia relations

Let's define 'sanctions'

The media have this habit of latching on to words without clarifying their context, meaning or importance.

The word of the day is “sanctions.”

President Obama today announced he is expanding the sanctions being leveled on high-level Russian officials who have played any important role in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Being a reasonably well-read individual, I think I know what he means by “sanctions.” The president is using executive authority to freeze assets of individuals high up in the Russian government. They’ll be unable to move money around. They’ll be hit where it hurts, in the bank account.

I think that’s what the word means.

The media, though, ought to explain these sanctions and how the U.S. government intends to inflict enough pain on Russia’s government to make it stop interfering in Ukraine’s internal affairs. If the media cannot do it, then they should ask White House officials, Treasury Department gurus, Federal Reserve Board brass, high-level Ivy League economists or anyone else with intimate knowledge on how these things work to explain to us unwashed masses.


It’s a nice word. It seems so clinical, so clean and so, oh, bordering on meaningless unless you can define how the sanctions actually work.

I’m all ears.

U.S.-Russia relations in freezer

Let’s not call it Cold War 2.0, at least not yet.

The New York Times reports that the Ukraine crisis involving the Russian takeover of Crimea signals a deepening freezing of relations between the world lone superpower and one of its rivals for international supremacy.


The United States won the first Cold War partly because the then-Soviet Union bankrupted itself by trying to out-muscle its American rivals. It didn’t have the resources to keep up. The United States won. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Russia emerged a damaged, highly corrupt nation.

What’s happening now in Ukraine isn’t the first such land grab that the Russians have completed. They did the same thing in Georgia in 2008. Ukraine’s unrest made Moscow nervous for the ethnic Russians in Crimea, which voted to secede from Ukraine.

Where do U.S.-Russia relations go from here? Into the tank, according to the New York Times.

The Times’s Peter Baker reports: “The decision by President Vladimir V. Putin to snatch Crimea away from Ukraine, celebrated in a defiant treaty-signing ceremony in the Kremlin on Tuesday, threatens to usher in a new, more dangerous era. If it is not the renewed Cold War that some fear, it seems likely to involve a sustained period of confrontation and alienation that will be hard to overcome. The next reset, if there ever is one, for the moment appears far off and far-fetched.”

Against this backdrop we have critics of President Obama pushing him to do more than he’s done. Obama’s response has been to rely heavily on international allies to join in condemning the Russians’ efforts to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty. Russia, of course, is having none of it.

What does the United States do? What can the lone superpower do? The hard reality is that our hands are tied, except to deny Russia involvement in high-level economic summits, such as the G-7 meeting about to occur next week in The Netherlands. It should be the G-8, but Russian strongman Vladimir Putin won’t be there.

The rivalry between the United States and Russia has just gotten a good bit frostier.