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Leonid Bershidsky

Lift Sanctions Now to Humiliate Putin

Putin needs Western economic sanctions more than he fears their economic effect: They're helping him consolidate political support.
A fabled soup.

A fabled soup.

Photographer: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

As Russia's economic crisis deepens, hurting trading partners from Germany to Tajikistan, many will say Westerns sanctions have succeeded. It's a classic stone soup -- or, in the Russian tradition, axe cereal -- story.

In this folktale, a wayfarer, usually a soldier, tricks a stingy host by saying he knows how to make a meal out of some inedible object, a stone or an axe. He starts boiling the thing in a pot, asks for one necessary ingredient, then another -- potatoes, carrots, a bit of meat, some salt -- until the host ends up sharing all she had in the house and eats the soup with relish. (In the Russian version, it's cereal, so not that many ingredients are required.) Economically, Western sanctions are the stone in the soup that is the Russian crisis.