McFaul on Whether Sanctions Have Weakened Putin: ‘No’

When asked this morning whether he thought the first round of American sanctions on top Russian officials has helped bring Putin to the negotiating table, the last U.S. ambassador to Russia had a blunt answer: “No.”

The sanctions have likely “punished” the individuals they were aimed at, Michael McFaul said, but can’t be said to have had a significant effect on Russia’s standing that might force them to change their policies. That would depend on the threat of a second round of holistic economic sanctions, according to the ambassador.

McFaul wasn’t optimistic about the current situation: “This feels a little bit like” the Soviet Union’s attempts to dominate Berlin in the 1960s, he said, using what President John F. Kennedy called a “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable” attitude.

Putin will open new fronts, including the nearby country of Moldova, which has a breakaway region dominated by Russia, McFaul said. “He’s a revisionist power,” McFaul explained, “he’s going to make [Moldova] an issue,” and the West will enter those negotiations from a position of weakness.

Patrick Brennan — Patrick Brennan is a writer and policy analyst based in Washington, D.C. He was Director of Digital Content for Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, writing op-eds, policy content, and leading the ...

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