But the war Russia is waging against Ukraine, and against Western values generally (against little things like the right of the citizens of a sovereign nation to govern themselves, the right of the people of a sovereign nation to run their economy their own way, the right of the citizens of a sovereign nation to hold their own, fair votes) can only hurt Russia in any serious way, if only Western leaders can find the courage to stand with Ukraine in a more meaningful and direct fashion than merely sitting courtside cheering the Ukrainians and clucking their tongues at the Russians.
There’s little to do, militarily, in the near term, but there are a number of devastating economic things that can be done, and these things will have their effect immediately and in the near and middle term (there’s unlikely to be a need for far term effects, but those would remain from the steps that can be taken now). Such steps include
Treasury and State departments can much more aggressively target Russian banks and trading firms for their alleged involvement in such areas as arming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or developing Iran’s nuclear program. [To which I add Treasury and State can much more aggressively target the Russian banking system for its involvement in a nation committing this naked aggression against a sovereign country. No special reasons are needed. Full stop.]
Western leaders are fearful, though, and looking for bloodless solutions to an affair that’s bloody by its nature:
The US and other leading Western powers are focusing on individual, targeted sanctions because broader economic sanctions could directly harm Western businesses and lead Moscow to make good on its threats to retaliate against businesses from the countries pushing sanctions, according to current and former officials.
What these Nervous Nellies are ignoring, though, is that while Russian retaliatory sanctions will, indeed, hurt those Western businesses, Russian sanctions “would inevitably hit [Russia] like a boomerang.” Russia, quite literally, has no economy beyond its oil and gas exports without those Western businesses and Western investments in Russia. On top of that, as Western (read: US and Canada) oil and gas production and export increase, with special attention initially to exporting to Europe and Ukraine, and as prices drop from those increases, Russia would lose that remaining vestige of its economy.
And be unable to sustain its forces in Ukraine. At that point, a suitable treaty would have Russia formally renouncing all claim on any territory outside the borders of the Russian Federation, canceling its lease on the naval base in Sevastopol and withdrawing all of its military units from Crimea, and removing all of its military and quasi-military units away from the Federation’s European borders by a distance of at least 200 miles.