The harsh sanctions already imposed on Russian businesses, financial institutions and individuals following the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine are “a rolling program” that can be ratcheted up as events unfold, a senior United Kingdom diplomat said Tuesday.
Speaking at an online Wilson Center forum, Michael Tatham, the U.K.’s deputy ambassador to the U.S., said Washington, London, the European Union and Pacific partners leveling sanctions was “coordinated, synchronized and broadly consistent … for maximum impact.”
He added that sanctioning Belarus, which is backing Russia and providing a staging ground for the attack, demonstrates that flexibility.
“The locker of further measures is not empty” if the Kremlin does not reverse its policies and end its “naked aggression” that is threatening Ukrainian sovereignty, according to Tatham. Referring to the coordination between London and the EU on sanctions, he said “a mechanism for that exists” and it worked.
“We absolutely have a shared interest” in European security and preserving “a rules-based order” with the E.U., Tatham said.
“My guess is [the unity behind the leveling of the sanctions and NATO’s strong response to bolster eastern and southern defenses] are substantially greater than [Russian President Vladimir] Putin expected,” he said. In response to the sanctions, Russia has largely shut down its financial markets and bank trading this week.
“The show of resolve and unity has been impressive,” he added. Tatham, the number two U.K. diplomat to the U.S., added there has been “a kind of dynamic that goes beyond governments” in reaction to the invasion. He cited the withdrawal of BP and Shell from joint energy projects with Russian companies, Western cinema companies shutting down film distribution in Russia and sports organizations suspending Russian membership.
“Russia is becoming an international pariah,” he said.
But whether this global reaction and existing sanctions is giving Putin and the Kremlin leadership pause, Tatham said, “who knows.”
“Our criticism is directed against Putin and his regime,” not the Russian public. “Putin’s public statements lay bare the agenda. It’s not about NATO. … It’s about a sphere of influence,” reflective of an earlier age that is not the 21st century, Tatham said. The invasion was “premeditated, brutal and cynical” and also has met far more resistance from the Ukrainian government, armed forces and public than the Kremlin expected.
He noted that more than 6,000 Russian citizens have been arrested for protesting the invasion and thousands more are signing letters of protest.
On the military side, Tatham said “a number of countries are leaning in” to provide weapons and equipment to the Ukrainians. Tatham stressed that 25 or so nations, including Taiwan, are sending defensive weapons like anti-tank and air-defense systems and equipment like body armor to Kyiv not, offensive supplies.
He added that the U.K. has been training the Ukrainian armed forces since the Kremlin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea on how better to defend themselves. London has stepped up its materiel support in the days after the attack.
Tatham said London is working with like-minded nations through “an informal coordination mechanism” to meet the needs of Ukrainian forces and on shipment and distribution of arms and equipment.
The invasion also reinforced to NATO members the importance of Article 5, which says “an attack on one is an attack on all.” Tatham said the United Kingdom “is increasing air policing in Poland and Romania” and dispatched a battle group to Estonia.