AUSTIN, Texas - "My reaction was of surprise and of some duress to have a lot of friends in Russia. I lived there," said Austinite and international affairs expert Jody Ferguson, speaking to FOX 7 Monday night about the unfolding Russian war in Ukraine.
Ferguson lived in Moscow for two years under a Fulbright Fellowship and later served at the Pentagon as a senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense. He worked on NATO- and Russia-related issues over a more than 20-year career in Washington that brought him back to Russia on several occasions.
Ferguson recently moved back to Texas to pursue a new career as an author. He recently published the novel "Above the Water", and it was from his home in Austin that he watched the invasion unfold last week.
He says he was surprised by the extent of it—especially in contrast to Vladimir Putin’s strategy in the war against Georgia 14 years ago.
"The fact that he went all the way and deeply into Ukraine up to the border indeed with NATO's allies has really coalesced NATO, coalesced the West, has coalesced all of Europe," he said.
With that, Putin has put his nuclear forces on alert. Ferguson hopes that move is just brinkmanship.
"I have no insight into what he's thinking. I'm hoping that he's behaving rationally," said Ferguson.
Despite Putin not backing down, Ferguson says US sanctions are tougher than he expected and believes they ultimately will be effective.
"They are hard-hitting sanctions. The banning Russia from Swift or certain Russian banks from Swift, as is I thought would be the strategy of very, very last resort because essentially you're shutting their economy off from the entire world," said Ferguson.
Ferguson believes Texans will feel the impact of these sanctions in the coming weeks.
"Americans and Texans alike will be feeling these sanctions that have been imposed on the Russians in our own pocketbooks," said Ferguson.
He says that means not just pain at the gas pump, but a crunch on other Russian exports—like copper, aluminum, and wheat—meaning even a loaf of bread could soon cost you more.
"People are going to need to be prepared for even higher prices. It's an unfortunate fact. But if we're going to see these sanctions through in this war, then we need to be prepared to buckle up like our grandparents did during World War II," said Ferguson.
Ferguson says he will be closely watching the negotiations between Ukraine and Russia as they restart on Tuesday.
Depending on how the attacks evolve, Ferguson says the US may need to look at even harsher sanctions for Russia, and possibly supplying Ukraine with more weapons.
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