July 22, 2022

Should We Isolate Russia?

At the time Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, Russia supplied the European Union with some 40% of its natural gas, 25% of its oil, and nearly half of its coal. But as punishment for the war, most of Russia’s energy imports to Europe will be banned by the end of the year, along with sweeping sanctions that target banks, businesses, and oligarchs. Is that smart policy? Those who argue “yes” say Russia must be punished for its actions, democratic governments should be protected, and that accommodations only embolden Moscow. Those who argue “no” say isolating the Kremlin to this extent is a dangerous gamble, which could undermine Europe’s economies, push Russia further toward China, and lay the groundwork for an escalation. In this context, and in partnership with the German Marshall Fund, we debate this question, "Should we isolate Russia?"

Main Points

For The Motion
  • We cannot do nothing in the face of Russia’s unfounded war in Ukraine. We have a moral obligation to democracy and human rights to isolate on Russia in the strictest terms possible.
  • Backing down from Putin will not have the desired effect. Putin views NATO and the United State generally as a threat to his power and will want to undermine democracy in neighboring countries to stabilize his own rule, regardless of the stance the transatlantic allies take toward Russian aggression.
  • Isolating Russia will be difficult for many countries dependent on its oil and other resources. However, this is a window of opportunity to improve energy independence and usher in a wave of green energy.
Against The Motion
  • By isolating Russia, we risk severe economic harm to ourselves and our allies as we work to wean ourselves off oil and other resources from Russia; a number of countries chose not to exercise sanctions for this very reason. 
  • With all the energies of the transatlantic partners focused on isolating Russia, we lose sight of other areas of strategic importance, namely competition with China, space, and further development of global infrastructure.
  • The harder the sanctions we impose on Russia, the harder it will be to find a peaceful resolution out of this, and the more hostile Russia will grow.

Pre-Debate

Against the Motion
20 %
For the Motion
62 %
Undecided
18 %

Post-Debate

WINNER

Against the Motion
32 %
For the Motion
63 %
Undecided
5 %

Breakdown

Against the Motion
19% - Remained on the Against Side
7% - Swung from the For Side
6% - Swung from Undecided
For the Motion
1% - Swung from the Against Side
54% - Remained on the For Side
8% - Swung from Undecided
Undecided
0% - Swung from the Against Side
4% - Remained Undecided
1% - Swung from the For Side
CLIPS BLOCK
ABOUT THE DEBATERS
For The Motion
Michael McFaul
Michael McFaul - Former US Ambassador to Russia
Michael McFaul is an American diplomat and scholar. In 2009, he joined the Obama administration in t... read bio
Radan Kanev
Radan Kanev - Member of European Parliament
Against The Motion
Emma Ashford
Emma Ashford - Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council
Emma Ashford is a resident senior fellow with the New American Engagement Initiative in the Scowcrof... read bio
Jonas Shaende
Jonas Shaende - Chief Economist of the Fiscal Policy Institute
Jonas read bio

Main Points

  • We cannot do nothing in the face of Russia’s unfounded war in Ukraine. We have a moral obligation to democracy and human rights to isolate on Russia in the strictest terms possible.
  • Backing down from Putin will not have the desired effect. Putin views NATO and the United State generally as a threat to his power and will want to undermine democracy in neighboring countries to stabilize his own rule, regardless of the stance the transatlantic allies take toward Russian aggression.
  • Isolating Russia will be difficult for many countries dependent on its oil and other resources. However, this is a window of opportunity to improve energy independence and usher in a wave of green energy.
  • By isolating Russia, we risk severe economic harm to ourselves and our allies as we work to wean ourselves off oil and other resources from Russia; a number of countries chose not to exercise sanctions for this very reason. 
  • With all the energies of the transatlantic partners focused on isolating Russia, we lose sight of other areas of strategic importance, namely competition with China, space, and further development of global infrastructure.
  • The harder the sanctions we impose on Russia, the harder it will be to find a peaceful resolution out of this, and the more hostile Russia will grow.