Appeasing Russia Will Fail

Many pundits and analysts, including Jeffrey Sachs in a recent CNN article, are arguing against sanctions and weapons for Ukraine. Sachs favors a peace deal that ends NATO growth and creates a neutral Ukraine. This unenforceable approach would lead to further aggression against Ukraine and neighboring states.


In a recent CNN opinion peace, Jeffrey Sachs argues against sanctions and military support for Ukraine and for a quick peace deal.

The two-pronged US strategy, to help Ukraine overcome the Russian invasion by imposing tough sanctions and by supplying Ukraine’s military with sophisticated armaments, is likely to fall short. What is needed is a peace deal, which may be within reach. Yet to reach a deal, the United States will have to compromise on NATO, something Washington has so far rejected.

The specious arguments used by Sachs to advance this policy will lead to a future of war and genocide.  This approach will not alleviate the economic issues from the invasion.


Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine and Putin is supportive of these actions. Putin does not believe Ukraine is a real state. How can Ukraine make a deal with Russia given Putin’s stated aim and current actions?

Russia could sign a peace deal, regroup, and reinvade.  The starting part for the new invasion would the parts of Ukraine that Ukraine cedes to Russia, a lot closer to Kyiv.  The best way to deter Russia from a future invasion is admitting Ukraine into NATO, the very action Sachs opposes.

Sachs correctly points out there are holes in sanctions. Sanctions on imports are not the only tool needed to combat Russian aggression.  The west can end all scientific cooperation including space, all travel and tourism to Russia, remove Russia from the WTO, ban Russians from international sporting and cultural events, and stop exporting technology to Russia.

Sachs pointed out that countries representing most of the world’s population did not vote for resolutions against Russia.   The countries that are not unequivocally opposed to Russian aggression have a relatively small percent of the world’s GDP and the GDP share may be a better measure of likely effectiveness of sanctions.  Countries that have not supported resolutions condemning Russia do not parrot the Russian line on the invasion and may come around with more evidence of atrocities.

Sanctions and disruptions from the war are impacting the world economy.  The war is preventing planting of grain, and Russian ships are preventing the delivery of Ukrainian grain to the world.  Russia could control around 30 percent of the world grain supply if it takes control of part of Ukraine.  Any peace deal should be constructed so Russia does not have more power over the world’s food supply.

Western nations need to plant more grain. The United States should end the ethanol mandate and covert corn farms to wheat farms.  See the U.S. subsidy that powers Putin.

Sachs points out that higher oil and grain prices could increase export revenue to Russia in the short term despite sanctions.  The Ukrainians may have to disrupt Russian exports at some point.  The west could ration and substantially reduce consumption of gas perhaps through a COVID type shut down.

Sachs seems to accept Putin’s concerns about NATO expansion.  NATO nations have not invaded either the Soviet Union or Russia.  There are numerous examples of the Soviet Union and Russia invading its neighbors.  

Sach’s deal with Russia is outlined in the second to last paragraph of his essay.

“The key step is for the US, NATO allies and Ukraine to make clear that NATO will not enlarge into Ukraine as long as Russia stops the war and leaves Ukraine. The countries aligned with Putin, and those choosing neither side, would then say to Putin that since he has stopped NATO’s enlargement, it’s now time for Russia to leave the battlefield and return home. Of course, negotiations might fail if Russia’s demands remain unacceptable. But we should at least try, and indeed try very hard, to see whether peace can be achieved through Ukraine’s neutrality backed by international guarantees.”

It seems a bit late for this deal.  Russia has already killed a lot of civilians and seized a lot of land.  What type if international guarantees would support Ukraine’s existence?  The Budapest memo?  That worked out so well.

The end of the war does not end the problem.  The peace must be enforced somehow.  Ukraine must be rebuilt.  Western funds should not contribute to rebuilding areas seized by Russia.  Any peace that does not end in a defeat by Russia will result in even more aggression.

David Bernstein is an economist living in Denver Colorado.  He is the author of A 2024 Health Care Reform Proposal.  This plan available on Kindle will move the United States close to universal health coverage, would enable continuous coverage during periods of unemployment and would improve health and financial outcomes for people with low-cost insurance coverage. 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.