Which brings us to the oligarchs. Mikhail Prokhorov owns the Brooklyn Nets. Alexey Mordashov owns a Pennsylvania coal mine and steel mills in Michigan and Mississippi. Vagit Alekperov and Leonid Fedun own the LUKoil chain of U.S. gas stations. Dmitry Rybolovlev owns Donald Trump’s former palace in Miami.
Russia’s oligarchs own even more property in Europe, from London mansions to European football clubs to large industrial complexes and airlines, not to mention yachts and personal aircraft and bank accounts. These assets are also assets for Western leaders looking to corral Mr. Putin, but they are wasting assets given the direction Russia is heading.
Mr. Putin is using the Ukrainian crisis to crack down on the last of the independent media at home. He has jailed or intimidated dissenters and potential political rivals. He sent out word years ago to his entourage to reduce their overseas holdings to reduce foreign leverage over his regime.
If the West wants to do more than just go along for the ride—the policy of the past 15 years—the time to act is now while some semblance of an independent elite still exists. Block Russia’s energy exports. Freeze its overseas holdings. Piecemeal actions just play into Mr. Putin’s hands, giving him a cost-free Great Satan to justify his deepening dictatorship.