This Move Could Cause Putin To End The War In Ukraine

As the conflict in Ukraine closes in on its second month, Russia shows no sign of slowing down. The Associated Press reported that Russia's defense ministry announced on April 15 that it would increase missile attacks on Kyiv after blaming Ukraine for attacks on Russian residential areas, claims which have not been verified. The announcement came after Ukraine sank one of Moscow's warships in the Black Sea.

The conflict is worsening, according to the Council of Foreign Relations, with the impact on U.S. interests marked as critical. As of April 18, more than 4.1 million refugees have fled Ukraine while 2,685 civilians have been killed since the conflict began on February 24. Global sanctions against Russia are having an effect, deputy chief economist at the Institute of International Finance Elina Ribakova told New York Magazine, but are they enough? Vladimir Putin's former chief economic adviser Andrei Illarionov told the BBC that he believed he had an answer to that question.

Tough embargoes are key

Illarionov said that only a full embargo on Russian oil would bring the conflict to an end. He explained that Putin was not taking any threats on embargoes seriously because Western countries are still buying oil and gas from Russia, adding that only a serious embargo could be a "very effective" tool. "I would bet that probably within a month or two, Russian military operations in Ukraine, probably will be ceased, will be stopped," the former economic adviser said (via BBC). 

The European Union imports about 40% of its gas and 27% of its oil from Russia, per the BBC. Josep Borrell, Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, told the organization that amounts to around a billion euros every day for oil and gas. The U.S. only imported about 5% of all imports, which President Biden banned in early March (via the New York Post).

Russia's economy would suffer

In an interview with CNN, Illarionov explained why such a tactic would work, adding that it was simple. First, he pointed out that direct and indirect revenues from oil exports was around 60% of Russia's federal budget, so cutting off that supply of money would be felt. He also pointed out that embargoes are not the only strategy at play. NBC News reports that Russia keeps money in other countries, and most of those bank accounts have been frozen. Illarionov said that coupled with the frozen assets, embargoes would leave the Russian government without the resources to finance any further spending. He speculated that Russia's budget could be cut by 40 to 50%, which could lead to further economic woes.

Illarionov explained that Putin's "territorial ambitions" were more important to him than the country's economy or the well-being of the population. The BBC reports that around 20 million Russian citizens live in poverty, and Illarionov predicts that number could double or even triple as Russia's economy wrestles with inflation and job losses due to the conflict in Ukraine.