For the first 48 hours of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I think the feeling between the European Union and the United States was one of extreme concern but almost resignation. Everyone knew that the invasion was all but inevitable, that Vladimir Putin would not change his mind, and that the whole thing would be a huge humanitarian disaster. Then President Zelensky showed just how brave he is, and the Ukrainian people showed their willingness to fight for their sovereign nation, their land, their people. It absolutely felt like there was such a change in how other world leaders were dealing with Ukraine and with Putin from Friday night, through the weekend. Suddenly, everyone found themselves on the same page, even world leaders who had been reticent to support stronger sanctions and military coordination.
On Saturday, the United States, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and Canada formally condemned Russia together and announced their latest round of sanctions aimed at squeezing the lifeblood out of Russia’s economy and destroying Putin’s goodwill with his oligarchs. On Sunday, Japan joined this group. From the White House press release:
First, we commit to ensuring that selected Russian banks are removed from the SWIFT messaging system. This will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system and harm their ability to operate globally.
Second, we commit to imposing restrictive measures that will prevent the Russian Central Bank from deploying its international reserves in ways that undermine the impact of our sanctions.
Third, we commit to acting against the people and entities who facilitate the war in Ukraine and the harmful activities of the Russian government. Specifically, we commit to taking measures to limit the sale of citizenship—so called golden passports—that let wealthy Russians connected to the Russian government become citizens of our countries and gain access to our financial systems.
Fourth, we commit to launching this coming week a transatlantic task force that will ensure the effective implementation of our financial sanctions by identifying and freezing the assets of sanctioned individuals and companies that exist within our jurisdictions. As a part of this effort we are committed to employing sanctions and other financial and enforcement measures on additional Russian officials and elites close to the Russian government, as well as their families, and their enablers to identify and freeze the assets they hold in our jurisdictions. We will also engage other governments and work to detect and disrupt the movement of ill-gotten gains, and to deny these individuals the ability to hide their assets in jurisdictions across the world.
This is fundamentally a commitment between North American and European leaders to gut the Russian economy, handcuff the oligarchs and decimate Russians’ access to their international financing and lenders. The White House went even further, promising to “launch a multilateral Transatlantic task force to identify, hunt down, and freeze the assets of sanctioned Russian companies and oligarchs – their yachts, their mansions, and any other ill-gotten gains that we can find and freeze under the law.” JOE BIDEN IS COMING FOR YOUR YACHTS.
Well, all of that scared the bejesus out of Vladimir Putin, because he’s a very small man hiding in a bunker. So he and Ukrainian president Zelensky have now agreed to “talks” which will be held at the Belarus border. We’ll see.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.