The sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and Europe for its interventions in Ukraine have worked much faster and inflicted much more damage on the Russian economy than anybody could have expected. The sanctions sought to deny Russian banks and companies access to the international capital markets. The increased damage is largely due to a sharp decline in the price of oil, without which the sanctions would have been much less effective. Russia needs oil prices to be around $100 a barrel in order to balance its budget. (It is now around $55 a barrel.) The combination of lower oil prices and sanctions has pushed Russia into a financial crisis that is by some measures already comparable to the one in 1998.
MOSCOW — Russia and Ukraine are now at war. At least 2,200 people have died in the conflict; thousands more may die yet. The Western powers — America, Europe, NATO — now have no good options, but they cannot do nothing