Crisis in Ukraine, soldiers in the Baltic and sanctions: Biden’s reaction will be enough to bring Putin back to the table

Of Giuseppe Sarcina

The US president responded to the Kremlin and moved on two levels, the military and the economic. The strengthening of the eastern flank of NATO and the measures against banks

WASHINGTON – Now the question: will Joe Biden’s reaction be enough to bring Vladimir Putin back to the negotiating table? The most explicit was the Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, yesterday in Washington to meet the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken: the American reaction was harsh, but more needs to be done

The US government has moved on two levels. First Biden announced the further strengthening of NATO’s east flank.

In detail, four repositionings are planned. An infantry battalion of about 800 US soldiers will move from an Italian base, probably Camp Ederle in Vicenza, to take sides on the Baltic, in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Also on the Baltic will arrive a battalion made up of 20 attack helicopters, currently located in Germany. Another 12 helicopters of the same type (AH-64) will fly from Greece to Poland. Finally, eight F-35 fighter jets will leave Germany to reinforce the garrisons in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. The president again reiterated that the United States has no intention of fighting Russia. All these movements serve to send a message to Putin: we will defend every inch of NATO territory. But Minister Kuleba pointed out to Blinken that Putin is unlikely to be impressed.

Ukraine, on the other hand, continues to ask for more weapons, more military support from the West. The Ukrainian minister mentioned the western airlift which saved West Berlin from Soviet encirclement in 1948. We would need such a mechanism even today, he said. But the Secretary of State did not answer him.

The other theme is that of sanctions. The US Treasury Department has banned access to financial markets to two banks: the Vnesheconombank (Veb) and the Promsvyazbank. In total, the two institutions can count on assets estimated at 80 billion dollars. Veb, in particular, is an institution similar to our Cassa Depositi e Prestiti: it finances 300 projects in collaboration with private individuals in infrastructure, telecommunications and in the most technologically advanced sectors. The two banks will feel the blow from the US Treasury, but will continue to operate. For the moment, the US government has not touched the most active commercial bankssuch as Sperbank and Vtb, which hold assets of around $ 750 billion.

In addition, the Biden government has cut off the markets the bonds issued by the Russian central bank that are used to finance the debt of the state. But, after the 1998 default, the Russian debt remained at low levels: about 14 billion dollars, equal to 20% of the gross domestic product. At the same time, however, huge reserves of gold are kept in the coffers of the Federation, for a value of about 140 billion dollars, to which must be added another 480 billion in foreign currency reserves (the dollar weighs about 137 billion).

Finally, the last block of restriction touches five figures of the Putinian circle. I am Aleksandr Bortnikov, general, former KGB, now head of the federal secret service (FSB), his son Denis, vice president of Vtb Bank; Sergei Kiriyenko, deputy chief of staff of the Kremlin, and his son Vladimir, managing director of the social platform VKontakte; Peter Fradkov, managing director of Promsvyazxbank, one of the two sanctioned institutions. Therefore, Putin’s closest ministers and advisers are left out. Blinken replied to Minister Kuleba and all those who expected more, after the proclamations of the last few weeks: This is only the first tranche. If Putin continues to escalate, sanctions will also level up.

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