Our knee-jerk Russia sanctions hurt our interests, time to get smarter, former US envoy to Moscow says

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The now-former US ambassador to Russia risks being labeled a Putin apologist for advocating a less punitive approach. But he says he found that sanctions on Russian are actually detrimental to US policies.

In recent years, Washington has piled sanctions on hundreds of Russian individuals and companies with the claimed goal of changing Moscow’s behavior, even though the Russian government has repeatedly said that sanctions will not change its policies. It appears that Jon Huntsman, who recently resigned as US ambassador to Moscow, believes US politicians should start believing what the Russians say.

“Russians have accepted that US sanctions will probably remain in place for the long term, inevitably distorting the market as Russians create alternative supply chains that aren’t always conducive to American interests,” Huntsman wrote in an opinion piece published by the Wall Street Journal.

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The US, of course, is far less interconnected economically with Russia than European nations, which toed the line in applying the sanctions and were hit by Moscow in return. Even so, US sanctions should do “more than to see some Russian officials squirm,” but Washington doesn’t really analyze what its sanctions do for its interests in the long run.

The core of the problem, Huntsman says, is that in the US there is “a reflexive fear of being seen as Putin apologist” for speaking out against the current situation, and that fear “has calcified our ability to think creatively about our relations with Russia.”

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People in Washington should “dispel any lingering illusions” that the sanctions could somehow subjugate Vladimir Putin and his government to the US’ demands, and stop being obsessed with the Russian president.

“Rather than cutting ourselves off from Russia, which is the inescapable effect of all these sanctions, we need to cultivate constructive relationships with those who will shape Russia’s post-Putin period,” he said.

We need more, not less, dialogue with Russia.

This lesson in realpolitik may be too hard to swallow for the throngs of American pundits and hacks still on the hunt for ‘evidence’ of how the Kremlin is secretly behind every bad thing happening in the US. Huntsman will probably just be ignored or labeled a Putin apologist.

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