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U.S. Ambassador: Sanctions Against Russia Are '21st Century Use Of Force'

7:02 AM, May 13, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
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Given the lack of foreign policy success with "red line" threats of military force, the Obama administration has apparently broadened the definition of "use of force" to include financial threats of red ink against Russia for recent actions in Ukraine. U.S. ambassador to the U.K. Matthew Barzun wrote an editorial on May 10 for the U.K. Daily Mail newspaper where he refers to sanctions on Russia by the U.S., Britain, and EU as a "21st Century use of force," and said that Russia is in danger of "profound economic costs."  The ambassador insists the mockery and criticism of the sanctions overlooks their "potency":

The reaction of the US, Britain and the EU to Moscow’s malign interventions in Ukraine has been to introduce calibrated, comprehensive and co-ordinated sanctions. We are raising the economic costs on Russia. 

And this week, John Kerry will be in London to discuss with William Hague and their EU counterparts what appropriate next steps might be. Were Putin to take steps that hinder or attempt to prevent the elections, he will bring more costs on Russia. 

There has, however, been criticism of our response. One British paper belittled it by depicting a shirtless Putin on board a tank driving past a sign which said: ‘Stop. Or the West will put you on the naughty step.’ 

This characterisation of our approach ignores the potency of this 21st Century use of force. No longer is the choice between hand grenades or hand-wringing.

The shirtless Putin in the tank appeared on the cover of the March 22, 2014 issue of the Economist shortly after the first sanctions were put in place in response to the Crimean crisis but before the more recent aggressive actions by Russia and pro-Russian separatists in other areas of eastern Ukraine. Nonetheless, Barzun asserts the sanctions are exacting a "steep price":

Sanctions are making Russia pay a steep price for its actions. Its credit rating has been downgraded to one step above ‘junk’ status, stock prices and economic growth are weakening, and the central bank has spent close to $30 billion (£18 billion) to prop up the rouble.

Ambassador Barzun closes his editorial with unequivocal confidence that ultimately the sanctions, or, in his words, the "21st Century use of force," will have the desired effect once Russia's "current nationalistic fever" breaks:

Unless Putin changes course, the current nationalistic fever in Russia will soon break. When it does, it will give way to a cold realisation of the profound economic costs of his policies. 

This crisis is one of his own choosing. Now he faces another choice: to leave Ukraine in peace and work with us to create a strong Ukraine – one that is not a buffer between East and West, but a bridge to both.

An email to the State Department seeking further explanation of the ambassador's words has not yet been returned.

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