Bill Browder is the leader of the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign, and the author of Red Notice and Freezing Order.
In February, 2022, on the eve of war, President Vladimir Putin and many Russian experts were certain that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would last only a few days. They didn’t expect the war to last, or that it would ever reach the one-year mark. And yet, now it has.
The devastation wrought on Ukraine has been monumental. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed or injured, and many more Ukrainian soldiers have died in combat. Over a trillion dollars of damage has been inflicted on Ukrainian infrastructure. Western allies, including the United States, Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom have spent more than US$100-billion on military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.
But now, in a world of raging inflation, scarce resources and other economic hardships, many politicians are looking for a way out. Sadly, a negotiated settlement is all but impossible. Mr. Putin has no capacity or motivation to compromise, and he won’t accept any outcome other than total victory for his murderous land grab. For Mr. Putin, there is no going back.
In Russia, compromise is the definition of weakness. And Mr. Putin knows that if he shows weakness, the Russian people will kick him out. He must avoid this at all costs, which just means further escalation.
Ukrainians also have no capacity to back down. Their country has been illegally invaded, their people have been raped, tortured, murdered and terrorized. Even if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was willing to compromise – and he isn’t – 80 per cent of Ukrainians wouldn’t support it.
This leaves only two choices. Either Russia wins, or Ukraine wins.
If Russia wins, the war would not be over. Mr. Putin’s next step would be to invade Estonia, Latvia or Poland – all NATO countries. If that were to happen, the prospect of a direct war with Russia becomes all but certain.
This means that the only viable option for the West is to ensure that Ukraine wins.
But how? At the moment, the West has given Ukraine enough military equipment not to lose, but not enough to win. We must now supply Ukraine with long-range missiles, Western aircraft and a wish list of other military assets that we have not yet provided.
Beyond military support, the West has to do more to restrict Russia’s access to financial resources. In spite of devastating sanctions, including freezing Russian Central Bank reserves, disconnecting Russian banks from the SWIFT banking system and impounding the assets of Russian oligarchs, Russia’s economy continues to function. Why? Because Russia has found a way to evade sanctions on the sale of oil and gas by using intermediaries such as Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and India. So long as this is allowed to continue, Mr. Putin can fund his war in perpetuity.
There are two things we must do to put a stop to this.
First, the West must implement and enforce a complete embargo on Russian oil and gas – we must cease purchasing these resources in any and all capacities. Second, we must use our economic power to influence countries that have chosen to side with Mr. Putin.
The G7 countries make up 45 per cent of the world’s GDP. Russia makes up 1.7 per cent. It is past time that we give these “neutral countries” an ultimatum: You can either do business with us, or you can do business with Russia – but not both.
Helping Ukraine win this war won’t be easy or cheap, but it will be a thousand times less costly than managing a direct conflict with Russia. We must do everything we can to help Ukraine, and we must do it now.