Editorial: Don’t wait, Joe – chase Putin’s money now

What are you waiting for, Joe?

When President Biden took to the White House podium Thursday for the second time this week to confront Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he tightened sanctions, adding banks and more oligarchs to the asset freeze stack.

Notably absent from the list: Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

“Sir, the sanctions clearly haven’t been enough to deter Vladimir Putin so far,” said Cecilia Vega, ABC News’ chief White House correspondent. “What’s going to stop him?” How and when does it end? And do you see him trying to go beyond Ukraine?

“Nobody expected the sanctions to stop anything from happening,” Biden replied. “It has to – it’s going to take time, and we have to show determination. So he knows what’s coming. So the Russians know what he’s brought them.

We can show all the determination we want, but it is not us who are being hit by Russian missiles.

There are reporters on the ground in Ukraine covering the situation as missiles fly overhead and footage of explosions captured on cellphones, but many places have CCTV cameras, and the Downloads taken from it and shared on social media show scenes of destruction, fear and desperate attempts. flee.

The sounds of air raid sirens have returned to Europe.

What will the wait be for? Why not pursue Putin now, while the tanks are rolling?

Yes, targeting Putin’s inner circle is a smart move – there is a financial symbiosis among the elites in Moscow, but the Russian president is in many ways rich as Croesus.

Bill Browder, an American financier who did business in Russia before becoming a Putin critic and anti-corruption activist, told the Senate in 2017 that Putin had accumulated some $200 billion, more or less. Exactly how much he has or what he owns is a mystery, that’s how Putin likes it.

He undoubtedly made some savvy moves ahead of the sanction. Business Insider reports that a yacht named Graceful believed to belong to Putin abruptly left the port of Hamburg earlier this month before completing repairs, according to German media.

The relocation of the $100 million yacht from German waters to Kaliningrad, which is part of Russian territory, came amid fears in the West that sanctions would be imposed if Russia invaded Ukraine.

Still, Browder told Politico last year that the money is “really a silver bullet for dealing with Putin.”

“If you want to change Putin’s behavior, then the only thing you can do is focus on what he values ​​the most, which is the money he stole from the Russian people and which he holds through these oligarchs.” Broder said.

The United States has already taken similar measures. Last April, Politico reported, the administration unveiled measures aimed at sanctioning Moscow for wrongdoings, including interference in the 2020 U.S. election and cyberattacks. These measures included sanctions against dozens of non-oligarch individuals and entities, the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats, and certain restrictions on the purchase of Russian government debt by US financial institutions.

“We’re not really trying hard enough,” said Evelyn Farkas, a former senior Pentagon official under former President Barack Obama. “(Putin) doesn’t take the message from the new president of the United States seriously enough.”

And here we are.

Putin has the advantage by issuing threats such as this: “For anyone who would consider interfering from the outside, if you do, you will suffer consequences greater than any you have faced in history. .”

But that could change, if we hit him where it hurts – his wallet.