Wash. Monthly Editor: Sanctions May Not Be Enough to Sway Putin

Monday, 21 Jul 2014 03:17 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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A "significant amount of leverage" is being enacted against Russian President Vladimir Putin over Russia's actions in Ukraine and the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, but it's not certain if that will be enough to change his behavior, says Paul Glastris, editor-and-chief of The Washington Monthly and a former speechwriter for ex-President Bill Clinton.

"The Russian economy is not an isolated economy the way it was during the Cold War," Glastris told "Midpoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV Monday. "It's integrated with the rest of the world economy. They have flows of monies, goods, exports, and imports."

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Just a few days before the deadly plane crash that killed nearly 300 passengers and crew, President Barack Obama announced tougher sanctions on Russia, said Glastris. And with the buildup of activity in eastern Ukraine and with the plane's downing, European Union leaders are starting to get behind sanctions that have been put forward, as are Canada and some other countries.

"We'll have to see if it's enough to change Putin's behavior, but he always had limited means to affect change in this part of the world," said Glastris. "But he's using what he has, which is fairly deathly."

Berliner noted that Ukraine's prime minister wishes to pass authority when it comes to investigating the Malaysian Airlines tragedy, and has mentioned the involvement of the international community.

But European countries are less willing to enter into sanctions, as their economies are tied to Russia, said Glastris.

"Remember Russia holds the valve on the natural gas going into Europe," he commented.

"Cut off that natural gas, and Europe can go into a recession. So European leaders have to be cognizant of their own voters, who don't want to suffer from their own pocketbooks from the fate of some people in Ukraine."

The airliner crash has changed matters politically, though, as 193 people from the Netherlands were killed, said Glastris, so "using the international community, especially the EU as leverage, at this point is a very smart thing to do."

Meanwhile, Glastris said that he believes it was an "enormous blunder" on the part of Putin and his advisors to hand over surface-to-air missiles to rebels, and "he's paying the price for putting into motion events that he cannot hope to control. Russia has already paid the price for this and they're going to continue to pay it."

Obama on Monday pressured  Putin to force pro-Russian separatists to stop blocking an international investigation into the plane's downing, and said Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have kept investigators away from the site of the downed jet, including at times firing their weapons into the air.

Putin, though, knows he can get away with a great deal, said Glastris.

"I'm not a mind reader nor an expert on Russian affairs," he said. "My understanding is a lot of this has to do with the internal politics of Russia. By standing up for Russia, by showing Russia's capacity to involve itself in a country right next door and protect ethnic Russians, he shores up his own support, he minimizes any threats to his power."

In other matters, Berliner also brought up a recent article of Glastris' in The Washington Monthly, titled "The Big Lobotomy," which Glastris said tells a 50-year story about how liberal Democrats and moderate Republicans built up the capacity of Congress by hiring staff and creating new agencies to be able to engage in analysis of problems and find solutions in a complex world.

"But by 1995, with the rise of Newt Gingrich and his revolutionaries in Congress, you found Republicans essentially cutting by 20, 30 percent or more this staff build up that happened over the previous 25 years," said Glastris. "It's really never been built back up again."

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