Foreign Policy

Obama Takes Credit: Sanctions 'Only Reason' for Ukraine Ceasefire



President Barack Obama was quick to take credit for the ceasefire agreement made today between Ukraine and the Russian-backed "people's republics" in the nation's east.

"I want to point out, the only reason that we're seeing the ceasefire at this moment is because of both the sanctions that have already been applied and the threat of further sanctions," Obama said from Wales where a NATO summit is taking place.

First of all, it seems early for anyone to pat themselves on the back, since things were still blowing up after the deal was signed. The ceasefire in July failed, and since the separatist leaders still intend to separate, it's hard to imagine long-term peace breaking out soon.

Second, the U.S. plays a relatively small role in this conflict. American trade with Russia was miniscule before sanctions. Total imports and exports between the two nations amounted to about 0.3 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. Obama's regular threats of an economic spanking have had limited effect on Russia's actions – as evidenced by the fact that Russia has continued to escalate the war regardless of what America says and does. Not until the E.U., which is Russia's largest trading partner, initiated its first broad sanctions – against Russia's energy, finance, and defense sectors – at the end of July did the threat of become credible.

Third, the only reason? The U.S. wasn't even present at the ceasefire talk, which took place in Belarus. The president overlooks Ukraine's own efforts to fight back against the flood of Russian military personnel and equipment coming across the border. And, he fails to give credit to Russia for making itself economically weak and vulnerable with its own idiotic policies. You'd think Vladmir Putin is waging a war on his own currency, since its value has dropped dramatically in recent months. Russia's own sanctions are shooting itself in the foot. Although the country is on the brink of recession, military spending is skyrocketing and the Kremlin is leaving its poor citizens on the hook for billions in other boondoggles. Crimea is proving to be a 10,000-square-mile money pit. Imperialism isn't cheap and Russia's teaching itself that lesson the hard way.

Yesterday, before this armistice was hammered out, the U.S. and the E.U. announced plans for additional sanctions. Today Obama said he plans on following through and will only consider lifting them if Russia abides the ceasefire.

Also at the summit, NATO approved plans for a "command headquarters would be set up in Eastern Europe with supplies and equipment stockpiled there, enabling the 'spearhead' force to mobilize and deploy quickly."

Read more Reason coverage of Ukraine here