Economic sanctions are a powerful weapon against Russia, if we have the will to use them.

Ukrainians protest and call for assets freeze and sanctions
23 février 2014, Londres, Royaume-Uni. Ukrainiens et les partisans de la liberté et de la démocratie pour l’Ukraine protestent à Whitehall pour le gouvernement britannique pour geler les actifs de l’élite ukrainienne qui vivent ici, à Londres et à retenir les héros morts place de l’Indépendance à Kiev. © Ruth Whitworth /Demotix/Corbis

There are many people who say that the West has no influence on Russia. This is not really true. In fact, the West has the power to impose devastating economic sanctions against Russia for her invasion of Crimea.  But only if it can overcome its own greed and corruption.  Indeed, this is one of the few situations where targeted sanctions can impose devastating consequences that will seriously get the attention of the Russian elites. But these sanctions require the West to have the national will to critically examine the ways in which the influx of dark money from Russia has begun to change our own countries.

For starters, why would sanctions against the oligarchs will be effective? It’s simple. The oligarchs know they cannot keep their wealth or families in Russia. The one inescapable reality in a mafia state like Russia is that wealth is ephemeral. Everyone and everything is still in a vulnerable state of nature where a man can keep only what he can personally defend. The oligarchs know that this because it’s is how they made their money; in a blood-soaked orgy of violence, they looted and plundered the patrimony of a Russian empire that had lasted a thousand years. Nothing and no one was safe. This is why the oligarchs keep their families safe and wealth safely in the West.

The prospect of having to defend their money and families within the state of the Russian Mafia would make the oligarchs’ blood freeze. If the West expelled all Russians and forbade their children to be educated in the West, seized bank accounts and property of Russian oligarchs and prohibited the ownership of Russian stocks, bonds, bank accounts and land while the Crimea is occupied, the sanctions would be truly devastating.

How to start? It is also very simple. Bankers and other elites earn with Russian gangsters. In an excellent article in the magazine The New Republic, Oliver Bullough describes the many ways in which the Russian elites have used their wealth to corrupt Europe and Britain in particular. As Bullough observed:

 “The Russian economy is vulnerable. The ruble has tumbled, as has Russia’s stock market too. But that will not bother the elite, which keeps its money in dollars and spends as much time in the West as in Moscow—and that encapsulates how hard it is for Europe to take action. In London, thousands of people—the estate agent who sold the home on West Heath Road; the brokers who shift Andrey Yakunin’s stock; the lawyers who sign off on his deals; the teachers at his son’s school—have a piece of Russian action. And this isn’t just a London problem. Andrey Yakunin has a brother in Geneva. (There are just the two Yakunin boys. The appeal of the many-child family appears to have struck Natalya Yakunin late in life.)

Other rich Russians live all over Europe—France, Spain, Italy, Cyprus—and they spend a lot of money. If Europe wants to punish Putin, it has to persuade its citizens to forgo that cash.”

The extent to which British policy was the slave of the interests of the City of London was made explicit by the Cameron government in the negotiations on the EU-wide banking regulation. The same willingness to subordinate moral principles is exposed in the current crisis in Ukraine. A secret document was leaked without his knowledge by a senior government official at a meeting of the National Security Council convened by Cameron personally. The document said that Britain “should not support, for now, trade sanctions … or close the financial center of London for Russians”

So now you know the real heart of the wicked, ruthless Conservatives who are always willing for the shilling, and the Russian oligarchs have lots of shillings.