All those focusing on the West’s lack of leverage are forgetting that the Empire retains multiple way of striking back.
Many observers have focused on the relative paucity of the West’s diplomatic and military options in Ukraine. Others focus on Russia’s sources of leverage: cutting off natural gas to western Ukraine and Europe and/or dumping its reserves of U.S. dollars: Putin Adviser Urges Dumping US Bonds In Reaction to Sanctions.
That applying such leverage could backfire on Russia receives less coverage. Does anyone doubt the Federal Reserve’s ability to print $200 billion to buy the entire Russian holdings of Treasuries? What’s another $200 billion on top of $4 trillion?
Recall that Russia holds those Treasuries/U.S. dollars as reserves for its own benefit. Dumping the dollars simply creates the need for an immediate replacement, especially as the ruble craters.
All those focusing on the West’s lack of leverage are forgetting that the Empire retains multiple way of striking back. For example, bringing the costs of misadventure home to Russia’s politically influential 1/10th of 1%.
A knowledgeable correspondent submitted these observations:
1. After Edward Snowden the entire “intelligence community” is looking for major payback. Here is a heavy weight added to Ukraine’s side of the scales. This is leading edge satellite and electronic intelligence, plus a detailed order of battle on actual Russian forces available and their locations. NATO can also provide access to advanced command and control facilities and advanced battle planning cells. In addition to numbers and morale the Ukraine will be able to mass their forces at the right spots and ignore unthreatened areas.2. Are you a heavy hitter 0.1%’er New Russian supporting Vladimir Putin? Your entire financial and personal history could soon appear on internet social media, too. In Russian.
US and British agencies have collected many millions of dirty selfies almost by accident. Imagine what they’ve collected on purpose against major intelligence targets. For instance, every member of the Russian Duma, the cabinet and all their top staffers.
3. Precision guided financial and visa sanctions applied throughout the entire western world. This is not the USSR in 1979 anymore. The entire upper strata of Russia’s elite, including all of Putin’s United Russia Party, are now extremely international. They and their extended families travel frequently to all the world class watering holes to sun, dine and shop. They have offshore bank accounts and credit cards (as witnessed in Cyprus). They own vacation homes in Spain, Miami, Italy, the Greek Aegean Islands et al. Their children by the tens of thousands attend western universities on student visas. They have massive investments in stock and real estate throughout the entire ‘west’.
As a result, they are personally vulnerable to sanctions pressure in a way the Soviet nomenklatura never was. This Ukrainian adventure could carry uniquely painful and personal high price tags.
The media would not be alerted; the targets will simply start getting messages like this:
“Your passport and visa are invalid for entry. Please follow this officer…”
“I’m sorry ma’am, your credit card was declined.”
“Invalid PIN number.”
“User ID & Password are invalid. Please reenter correct user ID and password”.
Massive materialism and corruption is the basis of Putin’s elite domestic support. Once he can’t deliver the goodies anymore they’ll drop him.
The EU previewed this class of soft weapon when it began compiling blacklists of Ukrainian officials deemed responsible for the shootings on the Maidan in late February.
Consider the massive personal financial corruption on Yanukovych’s part that was subsequently exposed. It seems likely the tailored sanctions threat played a major role in disaffecting his key political lieutenants and allies. That band of thieves also all had significant offshore assets at stake.
Yanukovych’s government was a scale model of Putin’s own political patronage and government system. It is more robust but has many of the same weaknesses.
Thank you, A.C. Discussions of modern warfare often revolve around asymmetric warfare in which the side with few conventional assets is able to leverage unconventional assets against a conventionally superior force. There are all sorts of asymmetric advantages that can be pressed home, and those targeting the wealthy will not be mentioned in speeches.
This is not to suggest this kind of asymmetric leverage is being applied or will be applied or should be applied; I am simply pointing out that it could be applied, and with very little fanfare or effort.
Others have referenced the same capabilities: U.S. has options for Russia’s declaration of war on Ukraine.