American sanctions on Russia have made a “real difference” on the war in Ukraine, the top U.S. diplomat on sanctions policy told CNN Sunday in an exclusive interview.
“Russia is unable to run a war in any modern terms,” Ambassador Jim O’Brien, head of the State Department’s Office of Sanctions Coordination, told CNN at Odesa’s port. “You see the communications are lacking. Precision weapons. Rapid movement of troops. So it’s fighting a different kind of war.”
Russia has been forced to abandon what O’Brien called its “imperial project” of quickly conquering Ukraine. Sanctions, together with Ukrainian “courage and ingenuity” on the battlefield, have changed Russia’s stated aims.
“It began with a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, an effort to take the capital. It shifted to a sort of increment improvement on the land that it had taken before the war. And now it’s giving that territory back.
“And so these are real changes in Russian behavior. It’s related partly to the sanctions, partly to export controls – they can’t buy the kinds of inputs they need for their military to function,” the ambassador told CNN.
He said that America’s commitment to Ukraine would continue “from now until the end of this war until Ukraine succeeds.”
O’Brien visited Odesa’s main port on Sunday to highlight Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s “Grain from Ukraine” initiative, to help ensure that food products from the country reach the world’s most needy nations. Ukrainian grain has for some time been able to leave ports under a deal brokered between the UN, Turkey and Russia, but many poorer nations have been priced out of buying it.
“Just yesterday there were announcements of grain going to Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, South Sudan eventually, and a variety of other countries eventually that are most in need,” O’Brien said.