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Economic Sanctions Are Tools, Not Policies

One of the more curious aspects about political Washington, DC is its predictability. This is true for just about every capital city anywhere in the world. Take the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight #17.

Since 2008, the Russian bear has tested the United States and Europe. When Russian tanks and soldiers marched into Georgia, the hues and cries from the West were intense. Yet but the flaccid response signaled to Russia that it could probably get away with more.  And Russia did.

The downing of flight MH#17 is a proximate result of events on the ground in the Ukraine that were put in motion by Russia. Russia provided the weapons that resulted in the death of hundreds and, more than likely, Russia does not care one bit. In their mind, “securing” Russia’s western border (read Putin’s March 18, 2014 speech) is more important, as are some other items.

American and European politicians should be upset, angry even, but what are they planning to do about it? A favorite and easy answer is, of course, economic sanctions. But as I tried to outline in the following CNBC Squawk Box interview yesterday, economic sanctions are only as effective as the policy the sanctions support.

The United States and Europe have failed to contain the Russian bear because, in part, they have no clear and united policy with respect to Russia, or for European security and growth. Russia has been seeing Cold War-like demons since the war in Kosovo and that is not going to change anytime soon, at least not with the folks closest to Putin.

Russia’s primary aim, for now, is to destabilize Europe just enough to keep certain countries dependent on Russian energy exports as well as weaken NATO. Since about 2008, Russia has succeeded. The United States and Europe must get on the same page and, first, stop treating Vladimir Putin and his lot as potential allies. Russia is an adversary.

This does not mean a return to the ways of the Cold War.  Not at all. In fact, such rhetoric, I think, would be most welcome by the Kremlin. The European political and economic map is much better than anything Ronald Reagan had to work with during the Cold War.

Russia has been able to project, but Europe has more than what it needs to counter whatever Russia puts on the table.  And what Europe cannot do, the United States must step in and lead. The world needs leaders right now, not politicians.

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