Robert Reich explains why sanctions against Russia are not enough

Robert Reich explains why sanctions against Russia are not enough
Former United States Secretary of Labor Robert Reich/Screengrab

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich is raising concerns about the United States' latest flurry of sanctions against Russia as Russian President Vladamir Putin continues his assault on Ukraine. Not because he believes they aren't necessary but because he thinks it's going to take more than just sanctions to get the full message across.

In an op-ed published by The Guardian, Reich believes there are "conditions that must be met" in order for sanctions to be effective. "We’re sanctioning Russian oligarchs up the wazoo, hoping it’s a way to get Putin to stop his deadly attack on Ukraine," he wrote.

"But for this tactic to work, two conditions must be met: first, the US and our allies must be able to locate and tie up Russian oligarchic wealth," he wrote. "Second, Russian oligarchs must have enough power to stop Putin."

He went on to pose a compelling question: "Do Russian oligarchs have enough power to stop Putin?" Offering a detailed comparison between American and Russian oligarchs, Reich noted how the balance of power differs vastly which would likely make it far more difficult to stop the infamous Russian dictator. "Russian oligarchs who have pledged loyalty to Putin arguably have less political power in Russia than do American oligarchs in the US," he wrote.

Reich added, "In Putin’s Russia, power is exercised by a narrow circle of officials and generals appointed by Putin, whom he has drawn largely from the former KGB. According to several Russian specialists I’ve spoken with over the last few days, this circle has become very small in recent months, now numbering perhaps a half dozen."

While he believes the United States should utilize every resource possible to force Putin's hand, he also acknowledged that it is "proving difficult to use sanctions on specific oligarchs to get Putin to stop."

Since the sanctions affecting the Russian economy are largely impacting the lives of ordinary Russian citizens, Reich noted that such strategies in the past have proven to be ineffective when it comes to dictators like Putin.

"As we’ve seen in North Korea and Iran, dictatorships don’t depend on popular approval," he explained. "In fact, widespread hardship can lead to even more repression and violence. We should remind ourselves that Putin is not synonymous with the Russian people."

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