This is the only thing they can do.
Russia—after suffering Western oil embargos and price caps on its oil and oil products, has shipped its first crude oil cargo to Brazil in its quest to find more outlets for its fossil fuels. The Aframax tanker Stratos Aurora is now less than 500 miles off the shore of Brazil, according to Bloomberg ship tracking data, carrying 650,000 barrels of Varandey crude oil from the Murmansk port. Russian oil hasn’t been shipped to Brazil since 2016, but sanctions on Russian crude oil, as well as the price cap, have made it difficult for the country to find outlets.
I just returned from Russia and nowhere did I find any signs of "suffering". On the contrary, Russians overwhelmingly praise sanctions. It is also difficult to explain to average Western "academic" or journo that Russia is absolutely free in her decisions on oil output and goes about it as she wishes. If London and Washington want to send ships to "enforce" the price cap--they are welcome, let them see what happens. We all know that nothing could be done and price cap failed the first day it was introduced. Now, Russia and SA extended their output cut and here we are today.
Wall Street Journal columnist Walter Russell Mead thinks that the right way to wear down Russia in a war of attrition is by attacking Russian interests in far-flung, peripheral areas around the world. Mead claims that “we operate in a target-rich environment” for bringing the “cost of war home to the Kremlin,” and he lays out a series of policies that are either unworkable, counterproductive or useless. Among other things, he calls for the U.S. to “roll up” the Wagner Group in the Sahel, work with Turkey and others to “make Mr. Putin’s presence in Syria ruinously expensive,” bring pressure to bear on Russian forces in Moldova, and “target Mr. Putin’s Latin American allies.”
Even assuming that it was practical and wise for the U.S. to do any of these things, it is hard to see how they would significantly impair Russia’s war effort or aid Ukraine in a war of attrition. If the U.S. managed to make things difficult enough for Russian forces and mercenaries in other parts of the world that it was no longer worth it for Moscow to keep them there, that would just lead to additional resources and manpower being redirected to fighting in Ukraine. It isn’t clear why Mead believes that the U.S. and “its allies in Europe and the Gulf” have the capabilities to eliminate Russian influence in the Sahel. French influence is in retreat in many countries, U.S. partners keep losing control in military coups, and so-called “allies” from the Gulf are not reliably on the same side as the U.S. in political and military crises across Africa. The problem wasn’t that the U.S. and its allies were “standing passively by” but that they were actively pursuing militarized policies that have repeatedly blown up in their faces. Russia has managed to exploit some of the resulting upheaval to its advantage.
Well, I have the answer why creatures like Mead, and even many in the outlet Larison published piece in--Responsible Statecraft--believe this. The answer is simple--99% "degrees" from US universities in history, political science, journalism, economics and other subjects like that are fraud and disqualify overwhelming majority of their bearers from any serious discussion on the subject matter, such as REAL strategy, warfare, resources management and the military history of the XX century. Mead is just a propagandist who has no tool kit to grasp those things, as for Russia Study field--I repeat myself ad nauseam. There is NO such field in the US anymore.
I guess, the unpleasant truth of the US losing economic race to China and military one to Russia will take some time to get internalized, possibly by new US political elites, but even if to assume that, as many report (in Russian), Blinken was in Kiev trying to force Ze to the negotiating table with Russia, one has to keep in mind that Russia has no reasons whatsoever to negotiate anything with Kiev. Election cycle in the US is of no concern to Russia who has written Washington off no matter who comes to power. As for Mead--I have a suggestion, instead of "teaching" Clausewitz and Strategy, he may take basic classes on WWII history, not the BS he teaches, and how real economy works. I do not expect him succeeding studying modern warfare--too complex and requires graduate STEM degree (and clearance), but he may try. Hey, at 60 I learned some basic chords on piano and even know how to play The House of the Rising Sun. But, in all seriousness, most of US "geopolitical" and "strategy" academy should be fired and given jobs as greeters at the Walmart's entrances.