February 22, 2024 | New York Post

What Biden must do to punish Putin for Navalny’s murder

February 22, 2024 | New York Post

What Biden must do to punish Putin for Navalny’s murder

Russian President Vladimir Putin has in the last two years caused the death of hundreds of thousands of people, from innocent civilians in Ukraine to the poorly trained conscripts he uses as cannon fodder in his war of aggression.

Yet through it all, Alexei Navalny sat in prison — alive.

Putin feared Navalny enough to jail him but feared even more what would happen if he killed him.

Watching support for Ukraine dwindle in the US Congress and the Ukrainian supply of weapons dwindle on the battlefield, Putin likely decided he had no more to fear from eliminating Russia’s living symbol of democracy and dissent.

It is time to give Putin something to fear again.

The Biden administration plans to announce a response to Navalny’s death Friday, one day before the second anniversary of Russia’s bloody invasion.

If President Biden is serious about ending Russian impunity, here are some steps he should take.

Some will require congressional approval, testing whether the House and Senate are true friends of freedom or more interested in playing political games.

To show Putin America means business, it is time to:

* Substantially increase the amount and type of military aid for Ukraine, including fighter jets and long-range missiles, and remove the restriction on using this weaponry to strike inside Russia. This is the moment to show Russian aggression will not be rewarded with a US retreat. 

* Work with allies to expedite the immediate transfer of Russia’s frozen foreign reserves and other sovereign assets to Ukraine, providing critical support on the battlefield and in reconstruction.

* Comprehensively sanction the Russian leadership and the entire Russian financial sector, including by using the secondary financial sanctions the administration announced in December 2023 to isolate Russian banks. 

* Significantly expand whistleblower rewards for those who identify the sanctions evasion and money-laundering networks of Putin and his cronies. Concurrently, Congress and the Biden team should also expand the America’s ability to seize all property of Putin, Russian officials and supportive oligarchs outside Russia.

* Decrease the Western-imposed oil price cap on Russia from $60 a barrel to $30 a barrel and begin a more aggressive effort to seize ships that are breaking sanctions and form part of the shadow fleet Russia has established. The administration could also issue a new executive order explicitly imposing secondary sanctions on violators of the oil price cap. In doing so, the administration should also create special-purpose accounts in which a portion of Russian oil receipts would have to be held in escrow and only be permitted for certain uses.

* Work to cut off Chinese, Iranian and North Korean trade with Russia through secondary sanctions and other consequences, targeting structurally significant banks and companies. The administration should also issue sanctions or restrictive measures against entire jurisdictions that are major sanctions-evasion hubs for the Russians. 

* Increase the US enforcement budget and ramp up enforcement actions against sanctions evaders. This requires not only more designations but also asset seizures and interdiction and disruption of lethal foreign-supply chains. 

* Announce substantial investment to rebuild Ukraine and develop key sectors — including energy, telecommunications and other infrastructure — with American, European and allied countries and companies invested and benefiting from the rebuilding. Chinese, Indian and other countries’ companies aiding Russian war efforts or engaging enthusiastically with its economy should be shut out explicitly from any commercial opportunities. There should be a commercial cost for aiding the enemy and a benefit to allies and their investors and companies.

* Sanction Vladimir Putin himself under the Magnitsky sanctions regime, named after yet another Russian dissident Putin ordered killed.

Authoritarians are on the march — against Ukraine, against Israel, against Taiwan, against democracy.

If we stand aside and do little, America’s moral leadership will be undermined, and Putin’s agenda of chaos and bloodshed will win.

There must be consequences for Navalny’s murder.

Otherwise, Putin will continue to operate with impunity.

Elaine Dezenski is senior director and head of the Center on Economic and Financial Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. She was formerly an acting and deputy assistant secretary for policy at the US Department of Homeland Security.


Military and Political Power Russia Sanctions and Illicit Finance U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy Ukraine