I should just say that I have a Ph.D., but I'm not a professor, so thank you for the promotion.
Hello, distinguished members of the Canadian Parliament. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the vital need to continue to expand and tighten export controls against the Russian Federation in response to its ongoing brutal invasion of Ukraine.
My name is Dr. Benjamin L. Schmitt. I've previously served as European energy security adviser at the U.S. Department of State. I'm currently a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, a fellow for democratic resilience at the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington, and a co-founder of the Duke University Space Diplomacy Lab.
We meet today less than 48 hours after the very latest unthinkable terror was unleashed by Putin's Kremlin against the Ukrainian people: the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power plant in Russian-occupied Kherson. This act unleashed widespread energy and water insecurity and ecological disaster, and sharply exacerbated the Russia-fabricated humanitarian nightmare that is unleashed across Ukraine.
Although shocking, Moscow's latest attack on Ukrainian critical infrastructure shouldn't take us by surprise. It is just the most recent example in its campaign of kinetic strikes against Ukrainian energy facilities over the past 16 months and a clear extension of Russia's years-long policy of weaponizing energy supplies against the European democracies.
We also meet here at a historic inflection point during Russia's war in Ukraine, a moment in which heroic Ukrainian defenders are already in the opening stages of a highly anticipated military counteroffensive aimed at ending Russian military occupation within Ukraine's internationally recognized sovereign territory.
The success of the counteroffensive will not just come down to the unparalleled bravery of Ukrainian service personnel. It will also be the military hardware and materiel that we, as western democracies, have been able to supply that will play a decisive role. This is why countries like Canada must continue to rapidly improve the pace and supply and scope of military systems it's sending to Ukraine, and ensure that increasing Canada's technical capacity for defence manufacturing and procurement is prioritized in Ottawa's highly anticipated defence policy update.
However, while supporting the success of Ukraine's military counteroffensive is essential, global democracies supporting Kyiv have the duty to lead a counteroffensive of their own, a counteroffensive of sanctions to further ratchet up economic and supply-chain pressure to degrade Russia's capability to wage war against its democratic neighbour.
With this in mind, we can look at three critical lessons that we've learned over the past year or so on the Russian sanctions regime.
First, the answer to the perennial question “Are Russian sanctions working?” is yes, but given the wide range of measures deployed, we need to also consider the proper time scales required for these various classes of sanctions to have their desired impact. For example, while banking restrictions and energy sanctions might take longer to result in broad macroeconomic failures in the Russian economy, technology export controls on component and systems-level military and dual-use hardware have resulted in more immediate impediments to Russia's military industrial capacity, forcing it to seek equipment from countries like Iran. Regardless, both sanctions tracks must be strengthened and held in place for the long term to live up to the transatlantic pledge of increasing costs on Putin's Kremlin in support of Ukrainian victory.
Second, the transatlantic community can never again be fooled by dubious Kremlin schemes and disinformation campaigns to waive existing prudent sanctions measures. Both during the run-up to the Kremlin's large-scale invasion of Ukraine and during its first year, sanctions measures either already enforced or on the books to be enforced were waived, avoided or otherwise unutilized. This includes the Biden administration's July 2021 decision to waive sanctions on the Kremlin-backed Nord Stream 2 pipeline, sanctions that were legally mandated by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in both chambers of U.S. Congress for years.
It also includes the Biden Administration's decision later in 2021 to avoid sanctioning a vessel called Blue Ship. This vessel was engaged in sanctionable activities in the construction of Nord Stream 2, but sanctions were waived, citing the ship's ownership by an entity that was quasi-owned by the German state government of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, though principally funded by the Gazprom-owned Nord Stream 2 consortium, an entity cynically called a “climate foundation”. The ship and its owner remain unsanctioned today.
It, of course, also includes last year's decision by the Canadian government to waive Russian technology export controls measures on a set of Siemens gas turbines that the Putin regime erroneously claimed were technically needed to end its politically motivated cuts of Nord Stream 1. Thankfully the Trudeau government ultimately reversed its decision, in part due to the great work of this very committee.
Strategic errors like these, along with many further examples, will only serve to embolden Putin's Kremlin to set up schemes to undermine the western sanctions consensus, and if left uncorrected could cause grave harm to broad counter-threat financing programs developed by global democracies.
Third, and finally, simply announcing strong sanctions measures without equally strong tracking and enforcement action of would-be sanctions evaders will not get the job done. The wide array of Russian sanctions and export control measures that have been announced by the G7, European Union and beyond over the past 16 month are commendable, but must be rigorously increased and enforced until the Kremlin relents in its war of choice against Ukraine. It's no exaggeration that the scale and scope of sanctions already in place against the Russian Federation represents perhaps the largest single sanctions regime ever undertaken in history, in large part due to the sheer size of Russia's landmass, economic activity and global connections.