Politicians and pundits are often blind to the political effects of sanctions ("Standing up to Moscow," July 29). But history shows that placing sanctions on Russia is likely to backfire.
After the first round of sanctions, Russian President Vladimir Putin's approval rating skyrocketed to a record 83 percent. Thanks to the U.S., the Moscovian menace can now use sanctions to unite Russians against the West and rally support to his side.
Moreover, sanctions increase the likelihood of forceful retaliation in 95 percent of instances because leaders tend to escalate conflicts to save their own and their country's reputation.
Russia's actions are in line with this tendency. Since the first round of U.S. sanctions, Russia has increased the number of troops sent to Ukraine's border, increased arms transfers to rebel forces there and even fired artillery rounds into Ukraine. Further sanctions only increase the likelihood of further armed conflict.
The U.S. and Europe have been tightening sanctions on Russia for months, hoping that each new round will magically change Mr. Putin's behavior. But the reality is that sanctions have only made him more popular — and made the world a more dangerous place.
Christian Rice, Silver Spring
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