History shows that targeted nations eventually find ways around sanctions, so the U.S. and NATO must keep the pressure on Russia.

In a wide-ranging discussion on Thursday April 6th, Rear Admiral Kevin Sweeney, USN (Ret.) spoke with panelists at Stockton University’s Hughes Center for Public Policy about the war in Ukraine. Admiral Sweeney highlighted that although Russia’s invasion at the end of February was a shock to the international system, it was not completely unexpected to those who have followed Vladimir Putin’s rise.

As Chief of Staff to Secretary of Defense James Mattis from 2017 to 2019, Admiral Sweeney dealt firsthand with concerns over eastern Ukraine’s security and helped the U.S. military offer financial support and training to Ukrainian soldiers. During this time, Sweeney took a valuable lesson from his boss on the importance of fighting the disinformation campaigns that come with military actions like this: “The false narratives could always be out there, and if you ignore it, it will hinder your legitimacy.” While the war in Ukraine has exposed vulnerabilities in supply chains, it has also led to an unprecedented level of unity among NATO member states. Admiral Sweeney urged for this unity to continue through tangible action, as states like Iran and North Korea show how countries often find ways to eventually avoid sanctions.

“The false narratives could always be out there, and if you ignore it, it will hinder your legitimacy.”

Kevin Sweeney is a valued Senior Advisor at TRG and joined the firm after 32 years of operational experience which included Command of Destroyer Squadron 26 and Commanding Officer of USS Cole. He also served as the Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary of the Navy, the Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation, and Commander, U.S. Central Command. Stockton University is a public university located in Galloway Township, New Jersey. The Hughes Center aims to provide a forum for public discussion of policy issues that engage citizens and policy makers, and to strengthen the voice of Southern New Jersey in public debate.

For additional perspectives on Russia’s war on Ukraine, read TRG’s LtGen (ret.) Chip Gregson’s article “Russia’s War Of ‘Iron And Blood’ In Ukraine Has Changed Everything.