The Sanctions Aren’t Working

We need to have a serious discussion about what the Western sanctions on Russia are meant to do, and the impact that they are actually having on the so-called Russian street.

The sanctions are not working. And they are not working for several reasons. First, the goal of the sanctions has never been clarified. I have heard at least three different objectives:

1. to dislodge the Putin regime (something I have problems with that I will eventually elucidate);

2. to make the Putin regime cease its invasion of Ukraine (something that seems incongruous given that nobody wants to admit Russia is invading Ukraine);

3. to keep Russia at the table and to keep negotiating (I heard that one from a Romanian diplomat).

None of these are mutually exclusive, and they are all valid. But I have never seen them laid out clearly. How can we expect the Russian regime to react responsibly or rationally if they don’t know what is expected of them?

I once compared the regime to a naughty toddler. I was criticised for the comparison, but I stand by it. However, if that is so, then the EU and the US are bad parents who cannot agree on the appropriate punishment for the child’s infraction.

Second, the sanctions have too many workarounds. I have already highlighted the regime’s use of dual-purpose equipment to get past the bans on specific parts, for example.

Meanwhile, international companies like Shell, Total, and BP are pursuing contracts with Rosneft, and Gazprom, among others. These contracts are technically allowed under the terms of the sanctions, but they are not in keeping with the spirit of the sanctions. But politics is politics, and business is business, as was made clear at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in June.

So far the sanctions have succeeded in hardening Russian attitudes towards the West. Rather than turning the so-called Russian street against the regime, the sanctions have instead turned into a rally around the flag moment.

But perhaps worse, the slowly increasing sanctions regime is only acclimatising Russians to a life without. What this means is that when the regime finally fully closes the country down, Russians will do nothing. And this is the danger of the insincere sanctions.


As for the Russian regime’s burning of allegedly banned food, I will write a post about the Russian blogosphere’s reactions to it tomorrow.


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