US sanctions on Russia have made a “real difference” to the war in Ukraine, the top US diplomat on sanctions policy told CNN on Sunday in an exclusive interview.
“Russia is incapable of waging a war in modern terms,” Ambassador Jim O’Brien, head of the State Department’s Sanctions Coordination Office, told CNN at the Port of Odessa. “You see that communications are lacking. Precision weapons. Rapid movement of troops. It is therefore a different type of warfare.
Russia was forced to abandon what O’Brien called its “imperial project” to quickly conquer Ukraine. The sanctions, coupled with Ukrainian “courage and ingenuity” on the battlefield, have altered Russia’s stated goals.
“It started with a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, an effort to take the capital. He moved on to a kind of incremental improvement on the lands he had taken before the war. And now he gives back this territory.
“And so these are real changes in Russian behavior. It’s partly about sanctions, partly about export controls – they can’t buy the kinds of inputs that they need to make their military work,” the ambassador told CNN.
He said America’s commitment to Ukraine would continue “from now until the end of this war until Ukraine succeeds.”
O’Brien traveled to the main port of Odessa on Sunday to highlight Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s “Grain from Ukraine” initiative to ensure the country’s food supplies reach the world’s most needy countries. Ukrainian grain has for some time been able to leave ports under a brokered deal between the UN, Turkey and Russia, but many poorer countries have been barred from buying it.
“Just yesterday, there were announcements of grain for Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, possibly South Sudan, and a variety of other countries possibly that need it the most,” O’Brien said.