Russian President Vladimir Putin could drag out the Ukraine crisis for months in an attempt to challenge Western unity, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said.
“There is currently no evidence the Russians are withdrawing from border regions near Ukraine,” Truss wrote in The Daily Telegraph newspaper. “The Russian military build-up shows no signs of slowing.”
“We must have no illusions that Russia could drag this out much longer in a brazen ploy to spend weeks more – if not months – subverting Ukraine and challenging Western unity,” Truss said.
At the same time, for NATO members, the most powerful measure against Russia were it to invade Ukraine would be U.S. sanctions cutting off Russian state banks from the dollar.
This is what Russian executives, bankers, and former senior U.S. sanctions officials have said.
The United States has warned that Russia could invade as early as this week. Moscow denies it has such plans but says the West needs to take its concerns about NATO expansion seriously.
Washington, and its allies in Europe, are finalising an extensive package of sanctions if Russia were to launch an invasion according to U.S. and European officials.
The U.S. package would expand a technology export ban to include any goods made with U.S. components or software, as well as proposed sanctions against specific Russian billionaires. But sanctions experts say more than any other measure, aggressive action against Russia’s state banks would hit its economy the hardest.
“Banking sanctions are the most impactful measure the U.S. can carry out in the short term,” said Brian O’Toole, a former senior advisor to the director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control or OFAC in the U.S. Treasury Department, which designs and manages the implementation of sanctions.
Proposed sanctions against Russian banks would bar them from making any transactions in U.S. dollars, essentially freezing any dollar-denominated assets or liabilities held by the banks at home and abroad.