For the past twenty years, Russians have gotten used to the benefits of being connected to the global economy. There is the general benefit of being in an economy that is connected to global trade, and there is the individual benefit of being able to buy goods from abroad and also to seek business and employment abroad. What if we cut off those benefits? Let’s make sure every Russian knows how much Putin is going to cost them.
The only thing we would really miss if we shut off Russia’s economy is its oil and gas. Europe is particularly dependent on it. Fortunately, the fracking revolution in America makes us perfectly capable of solving this problem by flooding the world with cheap oil and gas. We could help provide for the immediate needs of Europe and Ukraine with shipments of liquid natural gas. Over the long run, what would really hurt Russia is an increase in supply that drives down oil and gas prices, reducing one of the Russian economy’s main sources of revenue.
This is what helped bury the Soviet Union. High oil prices in the 1970s propped up the Brezhnev regime—but the lower prices of the 80s left his successors unable to pay their bills. We can do that again. All that is required is to lift restrictions on exploration and production in the US, and to lift the ridiculous ban on exporting American oil. And while we’re at it, we can help the Ukrainians frack their own natural gas.