Even without knowing exactly what happened, it is clear that Bucha and the like are an outrage: a horrific proportion of war crimes. But it shouldn’t come as a shock. Russian forces have used such tactics before, and will do so again – unless Europe, the United States and other allies move quickly behind the scenes. The cost of their war is not just for Russia, whose economy has stabilized since the first massive sanctions were imposed, but unbearable. And yes, it means moving beyond the efforts of banks and technology to stop bugs and, ultimately, tackling Russian oil and gas exports.
In Brussels and elsewhere, the Neysers are right to fear the effects of such a move on consumers at home. An inflation would be a shock and growth in Europe would be a blow. But there is no reliable alternative that comes at zero cost. And Western leaders should keep in mind that this is not about retaliation in Boucha or any other single city – it is about preventing Russian forces, undisciplined and inhumane treatment of civilians by the Kremlin propaganda. Inactivity costs lives and endangers us all.
It is important to understand that what we are seeing in terms of the Russian withdrawal is more than the outcome of the war, because the war also has basic rules. Here, Ukraine has accused Russian troops of killing unarmed civilians, and the evidence seen by journalists and human rights activists supports this. Human Rights Watch says it has documented intentional cruelty and violence in the occupied territories, including rape, the death penalty, looting and more. In Buchate, this is an example where soldiers forced men to their knees on the side of the road, pulled their T-shirts over their faces, and shot one of them in the back of the head.
For long-time Russia-observers, this would seem terribly familiar, and for good reason. Moscow has used similar tactics in Chechnya, particularly during the Second World War, which began on Vladimir Putin’s watch in 1999, when arbitrary arrests, torture, disappearances and short executions were used to drive out rebels and feed the local population. Unprotected towns and villages were attacked without any military justification. What happened in Bucharest in recent weeks occurred in cities outside Grozny in the early 2000’s, when Human Rights Watch and other groups documented looting, extortion, rape, and reported that civilians were evacuated and briefly shot at close range. Afterwards, Bucha was met with Kremlin denials, such as the assassination.
Ukraine is not Chechnya. It is an independent country of 44 million, not a rebel province where Russia has reportedly been fighting Islamic extremists. But the comparison is important because in Chechnya, terrorism has become a legitimate tactic, woven into the strategy – these were not isolated incidents. How? For the most part, since the official Russian rhetoric in the vicinity of Chechnya involved the local people with the fighters and the fighters with the terrorists, everyone became a legitimate target.
The Ukrainians, resisting much more than Russia expected, seem to have been labeled exactly the same. Nazism, Moscow’s propagandists have argued to explain their slow progress, has penetrated deep into Ukrainian society and therefore needs to be “cleansed”.
All of this should appease Western leaders and encourage them to act quickly. Russia reacts with whataboutism known. Zelensky has already delivered a provocative speech calling for a “centralized evil”, appealing directly to the mothers of Moscow’s soldiers and the country’s leaders in Russian, counting the horrors: “This is how the Russian state will be perceived. This is your image now. Your culture and humanity are dead with them. “
But what will the West do? It is clear that Russia can do a lot of damage without chemical weapons. These strategies do not provide victory, but can sow unimaginable destruction. Every part of occupied Ukraine is insecure. It is also clear that the current set of sanctions, although comprehensive, will not stop the war fast enough, or other measures currently on the table, will strengthen existing measures – imposing export controls on technology and further restrictions on banks – and expand the list. Authorized persons. Russia’s economy has been hit hard, but it has adjusted and the central bank is still able to provide assistance.
Going after oil and gas – and the West still buying the largest share of what Russia produces – will be a more severe blow, undermining Moscow’s ability to withstand money and other existing sanctions. Elena Rybakova, deputy chief economist at the Institute of International Finance, predicted over the weekend that energy sanctions would wipe out Russia’s current account surplus and hurt its financial position. Clearly, any such move would be painful for the West, especially for Europe, where significant social support would be needed to help the poorest to deal with the reduction of Russian gas. But it can be done – high prices reduce demand, and war in Europe is not without its costs.
And China? There the picture is presumably complex. It is unlikely that humanitarian concerns will push Beijing off the fence, at least not because the footage that shocked its own citizens will not be seen anywhere else. But the impact of this horror on inflation and global growth, at a time when Beijing is dealing with significant cowardly instability at home, may be just right.
About Bloomberg Opinions:
উচিত The European Union should buy American to stop Russian gas: Liam Denning
• Europe should impose tariffs on gas from Russia, not prohibited: Clive Crook
• A Putin war crimes case is not a liberal fantasy: Theresa Raphael
This column does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Clara Ferreira Marquez is a Bloomberg opinion columnist and member of the editorial board for products and environmental, social and governance issues. Previously, he was associate editor of Reuters Breakingview and editor and correspondent for Reuters in Singapore, India, the United Kingdom, Italy and Russia.