If Putin wants a Cold War, the world should give him one
An unprovoked but not unanticipated war rages in the Ukraine. It is a war entirely of Vladimir Putin’s making. Despite his delusional “justifications” about protecting Russian borders and guarding against having a NATO member as a neighbor, the whole world understands that this is a power play to reconstitute the former Soviet Union. If Putin wants to return to a time when the USSR existed, then the world, led by the United States and Europe, should give it to him. We can resurrect the containment doctrine of George Kennan and Dean Acheson, and isolate Russia.
While the sanctions the United States and European Union are imposing now are good starting points, more significant actions are called for. Unfortunately, Russia’s economy and the Russian people will pay for Putin’s madness.
Beginning in 1947 and continuing until 1989, the Truman Doctrine (influenced by Kennan and Acheson) contained the Soviet Union. Containment limited its expansion (and the expansion of puppet regimes) and created an arms race and an isolated economy that eventually led to their demise, the fall of the Berlin Wall and disintegration of the USSR.
A modern-day revival of containment would be more economic than military. The United States can eliminate the ability for U.S. based companies to do any business with Russia, stop all oil imports from Russia, and block completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Some of this is in the works right now. Our NATO allies need to join in. We should refuse Russia access to our airspace and to internet-based ticketing and reservation systems. Most of the Aeroflot fleet is presently comprised of Boeing and Airbus aircraft, which gives us the ability to cut off Russian access to parts and maintenance.
Except for China, Iran and India, the international community has largely been united in applying sanctions to Russia and in going after the Russian oligarchs’ assets. The FOPs, “Friends of Putin”, are under the microscope. In addition to freezing bank accounts, several oligarchs have had their multi-million-dollar yachts seized and their private jets grounded, and many mansions in London, Lake Como and the South of France are being investigated.
We must go further by blocking Russian access to the Swift Banking System, seizing assets of Putin personally, and banning Russia from all sporting competitions – a move which, while seemingly small, will aid in diminishing Putin’s popularity back home. A Putin who is unpopular at home, combined with unhappy oligarchs who fear the loss of their personal, ill-gotten fortunes, is a combination that could lead to a change in Russian leadership in time to save what remnants of freedom remain in their country.
As we contain and cut off the Russian government from the rest of the world, we should simultaneously increase the free flow of information to the people there. Internet access, social media contacts, and all other means of providing real information to combat government propaganda should be supported. Access to information has always aided the spread of freedom and democracy. The Russian people deserve to have that opportunity. Radio Free Europe was a great success in the Cold War and now the Agency for Global Media can replicate this in Russia the way they are doing it in Iran right now. All of these actions must continue well past the Ukraine conflict, and until Russia returns to post-Cold War reforms and accepts the sovereignty of the Baltic states as well as Ukraine.
The United States is at a crossroads, and it is critical that we show strength and skill in thwarting Russia’s aggression. What we do today with respect to Russia will be closely watched by China, as it eyes a takeover of Taiwan, as well as Iran and the other rogue nations of the world. It is time for the United States to lead as it always has, on the basis of freedom and human rights and opposing authoritarian oppression.
Francis Rooney was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Florida’s 19th District from 2017-2021. He also served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See from 2005 until 2008.
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