The big question is what are the people around Putin telling him. Is there anyone who questions what he is doing? If we remember Germany in the late 30s when Hitler took the Sudetenland generals around him warned of consequences. There were none. When he took Austria there were questions as well. Generals spoke up strongly when he threatened to take the German speaking part of Czechoslovakia fearing France and Britain would go to war. They did not, even when Hitler took not only the German speaking sliver but the whole country. By the time he decided to take Poland they figured he had been right so he might be right again and taking Poland would not lead to war. Hitler and the German generals around him did not believe taking Poland would trigger World War II.
We ended up learning from the experience – that “appeasement” does not end a problem, it encourages it. We need to apply that lesson again now with Putin. We need to give voice to those that dare to say he is playing a dangerous game that will hurt Russia in the end. Putin has already informed his major business leaders that Russia will not be kicked out of the world’s financial structure. The pain will be manageable. He needs to be proved wrong and those around him need to see that.
The toughest sanctions need to be applied now to show we mean business BUT we should always say there are more to come. You don’t want your adversary to know you shot your wad. He should be kicked out of the SWIFT system, Putin should be targeted. To not do so says we are serious but not totally serious. Those around Putin need to know we are totally serious and they will pay the price.
Putin says that kinking Russia out of SWIFT is an act of war. The Russian people do not want war any more than we do. It is a bluff that he cannot win if we call him on it.