If President Obama seems skeptical of his own plan to stop Russia’s meddling in Ukraine with just sanctions, he may have good reason. He is in uncharted waters, trying to pressure such a large country into backing down without the threat of force.
“We don’t yet know if it’s going to work,” Obama told reporters ahead of today’s sanctions announcement.
Obama took the use of force off the table early on in the Ukraine conflict. Instead, he is relying solely on economic sanctions and his efforts to isolate Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Yet this will not be easy, largely due to Russia’s economic size and its close economic ties with Europe.
There are few examples in the modern era of sanctions without the threat of force being used to deter aggression, and none on this scale, according to Gary Hufbauer and Jeffrey Schott, experts at the Institute for International Economics who together have studied the use of sanctions throughout history. There are even fewer instances in which it has worked, they say.