Pointless Sanctions

The strategy aiming to bring Russia and the Putin regime economically to its knees is an across-the-board failure, and this despite Western solidarity.

Last January, when Russian troops began to amass near the Ukrainian border, the American government was already talking about its weapon of choice to deter Vladimir Putin from launching an invasion —major economic sanctions against his regime and his country. However, once we understood what Putin was thinking, there was nothing but skepticism about how effective such sanctions could be.

We know the tragic outcome. President Joe Biden’s repeated threats to impose crippling sanctions failed to prevent the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In fact, the failure was so great that after the invasion, the White House claimed deterrence was never the goal, although it had spent weeks arguing just the opposite.

But where the White House did succeed was in its promise to unite the West behind a series of unprecedented consequences for Russia. Oligarchs, members of the Russian parliament, the Russian central bank, imports of Russian hydrocarbons … the longer the conflict, the greater the number of sanctions.

Still, after more than a month of war, not only have the sanctions apparently failed to move Putin, but he seems completely unwilling to retreat. For anyone who has read my columns these last few weeks, this is not at all surprising.

In a duel between economic and security considerations, a regime and its leader fearing for their longevity naturally risks putting security first. The survival instinct is paramount in nature as well as politics. At the risk of repeating this, Russia is not a democracy. The system of political pressure that a Western nation employs in such a position does not transpose so magically to a regime of this kind.

The Real Economic Impact

Perhaps even worse, the American media are now openly asking about the actual effects of these sanctions. After the American president said he was pleased to see the “ruble reduced to rubble,” in the space of a month, the ruble has regained the value it held before the invasion.

And for all the diplomatic efforts that were deployed in pushing European countries to free themselves from dependence on Russian oil and gas, admirable as those efforts were, other countries, notably India, have considerably increased their own imports from Russia. Even after negotiating a discount, with the price of oil nearing $130 a barrel, the Putin regime is still far from broke.

In fact, the three largest countries that have formally refused to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine — India, the largest democracy on the planet, Brazil, the largest economy in Latin America, and China — represent some 3 billion of the 8 billion people on the planet. India, alone, has more residents than all of the European Union.

What To Do, Then?

So, what is the reaction in the halls of power in Washington? Try to find new Western sanctions, of course. But what is the objective? If sanctions have failed to deter the invasion, and the effort to make Putin back down has also failed, perhaps sanctions will at least choke off the personal finances of Russian citizens enough so they will turn against their president.

On March 30, Russia’s only major independent polling firm published its most recent data. After a month of Western sanctions, the percentage of Russians who believe their country is headed in the right direction jumped from 52% to 69%, the highest increase since Putin came to power in 1999. And his approval rating has now surpassed 80%.

The situation is unfortunately not as simple as we would like to believe.

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About Reg Moss 120 Articles
Reg is a writer, teacher, and translator with an interest in social issues especially as pertains to education and matters of race, class, gender, immigration, etc.

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