Despite unprecedented sanctions and strong support for Ukraine, Westerners have not succeeded in preventing a Russian invasion, even anticipating the “worst-case scenario”. But their options for increasing pressure on Vladimir Putin are complicated.
– More punishment? –
The G7 nations on Friday pledged to impose “severe new sanctions” on Russia, and U.S. foreign affairs chief Anthony Blinken pledged to “continue the pressure” until “the war is over.”
But the leeway is narrow.
The Americans had promised to “start at the top of the ladder” before the invasion, and they kept their word.
“I’m one of those who thinks” the threat of these sanctions “is enough to deter President Putin” from launching an offensive, “but it’s not,” the former ambassador told AFP. Kyiv William Taylor. “So I’m not sure that more sanctions will convince him to step down. »
The energy sector has been relatively spared so far.
Many U.S. lawmakers are urging Joe Biden to ban U.S. imports of Russian oil.
“Nothing is excluded,” the US president replied.
Some hawks have also called for the complete isolation of the Russian financial system from the rest of the world, while Westerners are cautiously targeting banks with the least ties to the hydrocarbon industry.
Antony Blinken warned against solutions that would reduce global energy supplies and automatically drive up “pump prices” in the US and Europe. He warned that this was not in the “strategic interest” of the West, appearing to be betting more that current sanctions would have an impact over time.
– No-fly zone? –
To limit Russian attacks on Kyiv and other cities, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has implored NATO to establish a no-fly zone in Ukraine.
But for now, there is an insurmountable red line for the transatlantic alliance, of which Ukraine is not a member.
“The only way to enforce a no-fly zone is to send NATO fighter jets into Ukrainian airspace and then shoot down Russian jets to enforce the no-fly zone,” explained its secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg. It would be the guarantee of a “total war in Europe,” and he hit it hard.
Referring to the risk of a nuclear confrontation, many experts therefore believe that as long as the conflict remains confined to Ukraine or in any case to non-NATO countries, the Americans and Europeans will not stray from this line.
In the political class in Washington, a handful of elected Republicans like Adam Kinzinger and Roger Wicker believe, however, that the Allies will ultimately have to take the risk of a no-fly zone.
In the absence of such a solution, Washington and the EU have tentatively pledged to continue supplying Ukrainian forces with weapons. Here, too, there have been calls for more offensive equipment, including Soviet-made fighter jets owned by some Eastern European countries that Ukrainian pilots already know how to operate.
– Hunting down Putin? –
US Senator Lindsey Graham made no detour: He called for “someone in Russia” to assassinate President Putin.
“We do not advocate assassination of foreign leaders or regime change. This is not American policy,” swept the White House dryly on Friday.
But some observers believe that by drying up the Russian economy, especially the assets of the oligarchs who made their fortunes in the Kremlin entourage, the sanctions could prompt some members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle to turn against him .
“The possibility of a palace coup or an oligarchic uprising is high,” said Jean-Baptiste Jean-Wilmer, director of the Institute of Strategic Studies at the French military school (Irsem), in a report published in Continental and Continental magazines. predicted in the article. The war site on the rock.
Others, such as Samuel Charap of the RAND Corporation think tank, are skeptical.
“The people who can influence the course of things are very loyal, and for their loyalty,” he told AFP.
– And diplomacy? –
According to this observer, Joe Biden should continue, like French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Schultz, to rely on the “balance of power” created by punishment to persuade his Russian counterparts to back down .
“It may not be possible, but I think it’s the best thing we can do at this stage,” he said.
Some are betting instead on another American and European rival: China.
For one Western diplomat, “Beijing is increasingly embarrassed by the situation” and has not flown in to aid the Russian economy to lessen the impact of sanctions. So China can play a more effective role behind the scenes than the West, he said.