The strategy of sitting back and waiting for sanctions to stall Russia’s war machine could “go horribly wrong,” according to Niall Ferguson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
“It’s a very risky strategy,” he said.
The Ukrainian resistance cannot hold out much longer and Western sanctions will not stop Russia in time, he told CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia on Friday.
He said the US is heavily backing sanctions and “very delayed arms sales” to Ukraine, but he fears those fighting for Ukraine will not be able to defend the country for long.
Although the Russians have suffered more casualties than expected, “they are still making steady progress,” he said.
“The assumption that this will drag on, that the United States can sit back and watch the economic sanctions do their job, can be a huge mistake,” Ferguson said.
Anna Ohanyan of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) echoed this sentiment.
“Although the sanctions will start to bite – perhaps changing Putin’s subsequent behavior – they cannot be used at this point as a tool to end the violence,” said Ohanyan, a nonresident senior researcher in Russia and Eurasia at the CEIP program.
“It’s not going to work fast enough to avert a Russian win in Ukraine and I think that’s the key issue,” Ferguson said.
The US and its allies have imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. But it seems there is a race between Russia’s military advances and the sanctions that are crippling Moscow.
“There is no guarantee that Ukraine will hold out and what I fear is worsening news from Ukraine and the collapse of Ukraine’s defences,” Ferguson said.
“We’re going to sit there and say, oh well, the sanctions have really hurt Russia – but Putin won’t care because he’ll be able to claim victory. That’s the nightmare scenario for me,” he added.
Ferguson said the US should help support Ukraine’s defenses without letting it escalate into a full-blown NATO-Russia war.
Arms shipments to Ukraine had previously slowed, and now there are “desperate efforts” to help Ukraine continue the fight, he said.
However, this could set the conditions for a proxy war, CEIP’s Ohanyan said.
“Unfortunately, it seems [at] On this point, sanctions and military aid work at odds,” she said.
opportunity for a deal
Ferguson also said the US was “missing an opportunity” by relying on sanctions.
He said he believes a deal between Russia and Ukraine can be struck if Kyiv is willing to accept neutrality and take NATO membership off the table.
He pointed to a 2014 suggestion by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that put forward the idea that Ukraine should be a neutral country rather than attempting to join NATO.
“It is clear that President Zelenskyy is open to this idea, which represents a major shift in Ukraine’s position to try to save his country from further destruction,” he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told ABC News this week that he had “calmed down” on the question of joining NATO.
He said Ukraine understands that NATO does not want to include them in the alliance and the country will not ask to be included in NATO.
Peace is “urgently needed” to avoid further bloodshed and the destruction of Ukraine, which Ferguson says appears to be the Russian plan for now.
“The goal was to prevent Ukraine from becoming a successful, Western-oriented democracy, whether in NATO or in the EU,” he said. “You can do that by simply destroying Ukraine’s infrastructure and turning it into a smoking heap of rubble, and unfortunately President Putin allows more of that to be done every day,” he said.
Ohanyan agreed that there needed to be a diplomatic push to de-escalate, start a truce and negotiate “bigger issues.”
https://www.cnbc.com/2022/03/11/waiting-for-sanctions-to-stop-russia-could-go-terribly-wrong-niall-ferguson.html Waiting for sanctions to stop Russia could ‘go horribly wrong’: Niall Ferguson