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Putin’s Silk Road Around Sanctions

The overriding imperative for the West must be to make Russia's war against Ukraine as costly as possible for Russians. Why, then, are Western governments not doing more to shut down the transshipment of Western goods to Russia from countries like Armenia, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan?

WASHINGTON, DC – For about 1,500 years, high-value goods were moved from China (and perhaps other parts of Asia) to Europe and the Middle East via the Silk Road. The precise route varied over time, but it always ran through and involved local traders in parts of what we now call Central Asia.

Today, trade through Central Asia is bustling again, with the Caucasus also getting in on the act. But now the boom is in goods moving from the United States, Japan, Western Europe, and China to Russia, via countries such as Armenia, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan.

The G7 democracies are well aware that this trade bolsters Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime and makes it easier for him to sustain his brutal war of aggression in Ukraine. But their governments are doing little to stop it for fear of upsetting domestic industrial interests. As a result, the world’s leading democracies – aided and abetted by intermediary countries – are effectively supporting Russia’s ability to kill Ukrainians. The G7 and the European Union need to strengthen their export controls and ensure meaningful enforcement.