President Joe Biden announced the first set of sanctions against Russia following escalating tensions between the country and Ukraine, promising more sanctions if there are further incursions by Russia.
“In the interim, what you're seeing the White House do is this sort of slow ratcheting up of sanctions,” national security analyst Juliette Kayyem told Boston Public Radio on Wednesday. “There's promises of more [sanctions], so it's the tightening of the screws.”
The United States, the European Union, Britain, Australia, Canada and Japan are imposing sanctions on major Russian financial institutions, as well as Russian sovereign debt. Germany also halted certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia on Monday. Beginning Wednesday, the United States is also imposing sanctions against the country’s elites and their family members.
The United States placed Russian elites and the two major Russian banks named in sanctions — VEB and Russia’s military bank, Promsvyazbank — on the Specially Designated Nationals List, cutting them off from western financing by freezing their U.S. assets and banning them from trading with Americans.
According to Kayyem, Russian elites and their families are “dependent on Putin,” and such sanctions will impact their “bank accounts that fund their children, many of them at universities here and throughout the world at boarding schools, in apartments and real estate, [and] boats.”
“It's going to be harder for them to pay for that lifestyle,” Kayyem said. “Does that change someone hell bent on, you know, reimagining the USSR, so to speak? Who knows, but you have to keep pushing forward.”
While Biden has promised further sanctions, his administration has not explicitly stated that U.S. forces will fight in Ukraine. Biden, however, has authorized U.S. troops already stationed in Europe to move to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all three NATO member Baltic nations that border Russia.
“Sanctions can only go so far. If a country is prepared for them, it's gonna hurt them, and it's gonna hurt civilians. We certainly know that,” Kayyem said. “But to the extent that they really are a tool that can shorten military effort on our part, it can help in at least curbing some of the more violent, more distressed, destructive aspects of whatever [Putin] is thinking — I think it's important.”
Kayyem is former assistant secretary for homeland security under President Barack Obama, and the faculty chair of the homeland-security program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Her forthcoming book is: “The Devil Never Sleeps: Learning to Live in an Age of Disasters.”