Surely, Mr. Larison, who is also opposed to economic sanctions partially on the grounds that they may exacerbate tensions, would claim that these recent events constitute proof that sanctions do not work. That may be true for the moment, but Mr. Putin cannot flout basic economics forever. The Russian economy is supposed to contract by 3 to 5 percentage points this year due to, as the International Energy Agency claims, a “perfect storm of collapsing prices, international sanctions and currency depreciation.” Sanctions, combined with good luck, appear to be working. And more may be coming.
The most damaging economic sanction likely would be banning Russia from using SWIFT. This would, essentially, shut Russia out of the international banking system.
Incidentally, damaging Russia’s economy is the best reason to send arms to Ukraine. Few observers are disillusioned enough to believe that Ukraine would defeat Russia in a war. But, arming Ukraine could greatly increase the cost for Mr. Putin. As wallets shrink and soldiers return in body bags, Russians may start to think twice about their support for him.
Yet, Mr. Larison believes arming Ukraine is futile. (How Mr. Larison can believe that sanctions are simultaneously futile and escalatory is perhaps left as a paradoxical thought experiment for the reader.)