Background Briefing: February 2, 2022


What Kind of Sanctions and Will They Work Against Putin?

We begin with the threat of sanctions being leveled against Russia to deter what many see as a likely military invasion of Ukraine and get an analysis of whether sanctions work and how much they are a feel-good measure to placate domestic pressures since a war with a nuclear power is off the table. Joining us is Nicholas Mulder, a professor of modern European history at Cornell University and regular contributor to Foreign Policy and The Nation. He is the author of the new book, just out, The Economic Weapon: The Rise of Sanctions as a Tool of Modern War and we discuss his article at Foreign Policy, “How America Learned to Love (Ineffective) Sanctions.” We assess what effect cutting Russia off from the SWIFT global cooperative of financial institutions will have and whether going after Putin’s estimated $150 billion stashed abroad will be effective.


Russia and America’s Different Interpretation of the History of James Baker’s “One Inch” Remark

Then we look into the disputed history of NATO expansion eastward which both Putin and his Foreign Minister Lavrov often refer to, quoting Bush senior’s former Secretary of State James Baker’s conversation with Gorbachev in February of 1990 shortly after the Berlin Wall came down in which Baker floated the hypothetical of what kind of unified Germany would be acceptable mentioning the option of NATO not shifting “one inch eastward”. Joining us is Timothy Sayle, Professor of History and Director of the International Relations Program at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Enduring Alliance: A History of NATO and the Postwar Global Order and has co-edited two volumes: The Last Card: Inside George W. Bush’s Decision to Surge in Iraq and The Nuclear North: Histories of Canada in the Atomic Age. We discuss how Russia and America’s interpretation of history differs sharply and decades later, even though President Bush senior immediately shot down Baker’s “one inch” remark, it is now at the heart of Putin’s justification for threatening war with Ukraine.


The Need to Resume Talks With Kim Jong-un and His Dramatic Weight Loss

Then finally following North Korea’s latest missile test we speak with Jessica Lee, a Senior Research Fellow in the East Asia Program at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft whose research interests include U.S. foreign policy toward the Indo-Pacific region, with an emphasis on alliances and North Korea. A non-resident senior associate fellow at the Asia Pacific Leadership Network and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, she has testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and joins us to discuss the need to resume talks with North Korea at a higher level and rumors surrounding Kim Jong-un’s dramatic weight loss.