You can tell a lot by looking at a nation's currency. Countries with chronically weak currencies are almost always weak countries. Weak at home, weak abroad. Here's what's troubling me.
In recent weeks, the Russian ruble has been rising. That can't be a good sign. Before the invasion, 79 rubles bought a dollar.
In the first couple weeks of the invasion, as the U.S. and NATO developed an action plan to sanction Russia's finances, its war machine and its energy economy, the ruble fell all the way back to 139 to the dollar. It crashed.
It looked worthless. The joke was: "what's the difference between a ruble and a dollar?" The answer was: "a dollar."
So now, I'm troubled by the fact that the ruble has come all the way back to 85 rubles to the dollar—was even stronger yesterday, a roughly 40% appreciation over the past couple of weeks.
That tells me that the U.S. and NATO are not doing its economic job to successfully sanction Russia and tear apart the funding of their war machine.
The Ukrainians are doing their job, outperforming all expectations on the battlefield, fighting Russia to a standoff, even now perhaps pushing Russia back in parts of the country.
Despite Vladimir Putin's crimes against humanity, a courageous President Zelenskyy, a tough Ukrainian military and the remarkable grit of the Ukrainian people have shown the world that they're doing their part to defeat Russia, but are we doing our part?
Does the United States government want Ukraine to win this war? Joe Biden's never said so. Neither have his minions.
President Biden has yet to say yes to the polish MiGs or the Slovakian S-300's. We haven't sanctioned their energy companies. By all accounts Russia is still selling the same amount of oil.
The U.S. has said no to Russian oil imports, but that doesn't officially take place until late June— months from now! We never sanctioned key Russian energy bank lenders. The White House opposes Senator Toomey's idea of secondary bank sanctions. No one's talking seriously yet about putting European energy payments into an escrow account, denying the funds to Putin.
The U.S. Treasury is permitting American banks to complete interest payments on Russia's sovereign debt. Half of Russia's 20 richest billionaires are not sanctioned, including the Russian oligarch who paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million. She's not sanctioned. Putin's been sanctioned, but he still has his $700 million yacht moored off the coast of Italy. Why haven't we taken his yacht? He's a war criminal, but he's also a major league crook.
In fact, he and his cronies basically live to steal from Russian working folks. That's why Putin needs to keep getting re-elected because probably the minute he's out of office he'll be jailed in Siberia forever.
Does America want Ukraine to win? The rise of the ruble says the White House does not want Ukraine to win. You know the old phrase, "half measures will get you nothing?" Well, these half measures are playing right into Vladimir Putin's hands and that's a bad thing.
We need to toughen up the sanctions. We need to provide more military assistance and we need to openly support a Ukrainian victory. In his more wakeful, cognitive moments, Joe Biden has called Putin a war criminal and said he cannot remain in power. So, prove it, Joe.
This article is adapted from Larry Kudlow's opening commentary on the April 1, 2022, edition of "Kudlow."