March 2022

By Ben Hoffschneider

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and its recognition of the independent Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) has prompted one of the largest internationally coordinated sanctions packages in history. While U.S. sanctions against Russia are not a new measure (the U.S. has used sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, election interference in 2016, and general threats to regional stability over the past decade), the current package of sanctions from the U.S., Europe and other NATO allies demonstrates a strong, united front against Russia’s continued escalation of hostilities in Ukraine and their violence against civilians and non-military institutions.


Summary of Existing U.S. Sanctions and Actions


Existing U.S. sanctions on Russia have three major targets: Putin’s allies and other oligarchs, Russia’s ability to do business and conduct trade on the international stage, and Russia’s ability to fund its military infrastructure. In addition to sanctions, the U.S. has also been providing unprecedented military aid to Ukraine, both directly and through NATO countries and partners. And it has provided over $54 million dollars to countries like Poland and Romania who are taking in Ukrainian refugees.

On March 8, President Biden announced that the U.S. will not allow Russian oil and gas imports. In his announcement, President Biden, explained to an American public already concerned about inflation, that gas prices will rise higher because of the import ban on Russian oil and gas. At the same time, President Biden said he would try to punish Putin and the Russian economy without hurting American consumers. To that end, it appears President Biden is identifying alternative sources for the U.S. to import oil and gas.

In response to a ban on imports of Russian oil and gas, Russian Deputy Prime Minister has threatened to cut off gas supplies to Europe currently delivered via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. If Russia were to stop supplying gas to Europe, doing so would further imperil an already struggling Russian economy. Retaliating against sanctions, Russia, on Monday, March 7, adopted a list of 43 “hostile countries” including the U.S. and its NATO allies. As a result, real estate purchases, financial trades, and deals involving loans in rubles now require “special authorization” when involving companies based in countries designated “hostile.”


A Party Divided


While the U.S.’ response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has garnered bi-partisan support, the conflict is exposing divides within the GOP between the party’s pro-Putin wing, vocally represented by former President Donald Trump and his allies, and the pro-Ukraine establishment Republicans. While President Biden has stayed out of the debate, DCCC Chair Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) has said “We’re Zelenskyy Democrats, and they’re Putin Republicans.” As the conflict continues, the GOP may have difficulty navigating the Pro-Putin wing of their Party, their near-universal opposition to the Biden Administration, and their stand against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


What Comes Next?


If Russian aggression continues, the Biden administration may expand economic sanctions trying to further isolate Russia’s economy from international markets. Witnessing the nightly horror of Russia’s bombing of civilians has moved many corporations to leave Russia including Shell, bp, and McDonalds. Global financial services and other companies are like Visa, MasterCard and EY are pulling out of Russian markets.

On March 7, A group of 27 foreign policy experts sent an open letter to the Biden Administration supporting a limited no-fly zone in Ukraine, a request Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s made of the NATO on March 5. The Biden Administration and its NATO allies have taken a no-fly zone off the table, because it would mean NATO and its Member States in enforcing a no-fly zone would be entering the conflict, full stop. Most experts believe enforcing a no-fly zone against Russian jets would escalate, not de-escalate the conflict. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said a no-fly zone would lead to “broader conflict” between NATO and Russia, and expressed that NATO’s role is to ensure “the conflict does not escalate and spread beyond Ukraine.”