Paul Krugman | How the West Is Strangling Putin’s Economy – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Russia’s military failure in Ukraine has defied almost everyone’s predictions. First came abject defeat at the gates of Kyiv. Then came the incredible shrinking blitzkrieg, as attempts to encircle Ukrainian forces in the supposedly more favorable terrain in the east have devolved into a slow-motion battle of attrition.

What’s important about this second Russian setback is that it interacts with another big surprise: The remarkable — and, in some ways, puzzling — effectiveness, at least so far, of Western economic sanctions against the Putin regime, sanctions that are working in an unexpected way.

As soon as the war began there was a great deal of talk about bringing economic pressure to bear against the invading nation. Most of this focused on ways to cut off Russia’s exports, especially its sales of oil and natural gas. Unfortunately, however, there has been shamefully little meaningful movement on that front. The Biden administration has banned imports of Russian oil, but this will have little impact unless other nations follow our lead. And Europe, in particular, still hasn’t placed an embargo on Russian oil, let alone done anything substantive to wean itself from dependence on Russian gas.

As a result, Russian exports have held up, and the country appears to be headed for a record trade surplus. So is Vladimir Putin winning the economic war?

No, he’s losing it. That surging surplus is a sign of weakness, not strength — it largely reflects a plunge in Russia’s imports, which even state-backed analysts say is hobbling its economy. Russia is, in effect, making a lot of money selling oil and gas, but finding it hard to use that money to buy the things it needs, reportedly including crucial components used in the production of tanks and other military equipment.”

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