Bernard Guetta: The Temptation to Give Up

2023-11-20 | Political initiatives, Geopolitical analysis

It is all over, I am telling you. Finished, done with: Putin has won, we hear from all sides and, false as it may be, this grand air of resignation has all it takes to be convincing. Since – it is being explained – the Ukrainian counter-offensive has failed to push back the Russian troops, and this war has thus become a war of positions, the advantage goes to Vladimir Putin because he has more men than Ukraine.

Western sanctions, it is added, have failed to bring to its knees the Russian economy, whose ammunition lines are running at full capacity. It goes on to say that Western leaders are now more preoccupied with Hamas than with the Donbass, and the incessant bombardment of Gaza has led to accusations of selective indignation in many countries and universities. The conclusion is that everything benefits Vladimir Putin, who needs only wait for the election of Donald Trump to draw closer to the United States, distance himself from China and thus secure the ratification of a division of Ukraine, while weakening the European Union, which none of these men would wish any good for.

It is done, I am telling you, but no, I am sorry, it is actually not done at all, because let us start again.

However harsh they may be, economic sanctions are even less likely to paralyse Russia in one fell swoop than they were to force South Africa to give up apartheid or Iran to give up its theocracy. Sanctions are a slow poison that complicates and makes everything more expensive for those against whom they are imposed. They prevent them from doing many things, but there is nothing extraordinary about Vladimir Putin overcoming them. He lives with them, but if they were painless and had no effect, why would he tell the Russians that the sanctions were about to increase their difficulties?

Read the full publication here (also available in French and German).