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The West must raise the price for Putin

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A month after the Russian attack, the news from Ukraine suddenly changes. It is no longer an everyday occurrence when the Russian army will have surrounded kyiv and when the capital might fall. In fact, the Ukrainian army has begun to push back Moscow’s troops in the kyiv area. However, this puts Russian President Vladimir Putin himself on the defensive.

At the same time, there is growing concern in Western capitals that Putin may use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine for this very reason, but a nuclear attack is seen as less likely. NATO warned the Russian president against using a weapon of mass destruction and threatened “serious consequences”. The heads of state and government left it open what exactly that means.

It would be important to make it clear to Putin what the price would be if he committed such a crime. Unfortunately, even Putin will still have the West’s actions during the war in Syria in mind. Then-US President Barack Obama first defined the use of chemical weapons as a red line, and then did nothing when Russia-backed ruler Assad used an agent of war against the people of Russia itself. he.

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In Germany in particular, it is sometimes said that Putin should not be pushed into a corner, because then he would resort to the use of chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons. The Russian president was indeed cornered, but not so much by the actions of the West as by the blatant misjudgments of his own leadership, on the one hand, and the strong willingness of the Ukrainians to defend themselves, on the other. The first cracks are also becoming apparent in Putin’s system. The surprise and unspecified disappearance of Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu from the public can be seen as an indication that nothing is currently going according to plan in the Kremlin.

A first step would be an oil embargo

Even if the West refrained from applying more sanctions, there would be no certainty that Putin would not take the next step in the escalation anyway. NATO states should not be guided in their actions by fear of a supposedly unpredictable Russian president. It is by no means as unpredictable as Putin wants his interlocutors in the West to believe. The decision to invade Ukraine was obviously based on calculated but incorrect assumptions: that the Russian military would have achieved the goals of the war in a few days and that the West would not react with excessively harsh sanctions. So anyone who wants to help Ukraine end the war must now raise the price to Russia.

More about the Ukrainian war on Tagesspiegel Plus:

If the West does not want to establish a no-fly zone, if Germany and Austria avoid stopping all energy imports from Russia, then an immediate oil embargo would be the least the EU states can do. That would significantly increase the cost of this war, especially when combined with a credible threat to stop gas purchases as well if Putin does not withdraw troops from it.

The West also faces the dilemma that its inaction will always have dramatic consequences. The focus on a theoretically possible Russian use of weapons of mass destruction obscures the fact that the Russian military is already committing the most serious war crimes against the civilian population in Ukraine. The city of Mariupol has been largely leveled. People who are trapped in cellars and unable to escape are at risk of starvation these days. Since the last two journalists had to leave town, this horror will no longer be played in front of the world public.

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