What is the strategic goal of economic sanctions against Russia?

NATO countries are now trying“Stop the war without going to war”. The formula belongs to Emmanuel Macron. He describes well the purpose of the economic sanctions imposed on Russia the day after its armed intervention in Ukraine.

→ EXPLANATION. War in Ukraine: Decathlon announces withdrawal from Russia, other companies cling

With these measures, developed countries strike at individuals close to the Kremlin, whose assets are frozen. Entire sectors of the Russian economy are being attacked, the country is being isolated and exiled. Russian industry can no longer obtain some of the electronic components it needs. Direct flights to Europe and the US have been suspended. Commercial transactions have become more difficult, and Russia can no longer finance itself with Western investors. The Central Bank of Russia has lost a significant part of foreign exchange reserves…

Drowning Russia’s finances

These measures achieve several effects: “The sanctions are aimed primarily at reducing the resources of the Russian state in order to prevent it from financing its war,” explains Olivier Dorgans, an Ashurst lawyer and sanctions specialist. It is also about creating pressure on the circles of power to show that the Kremlin’s choice is not without consequences. “These sanctions are also a way to send a signal to other countries that might be tempted to follow Russia’s lead.notes Silvi Matelli, deputy director of Iris (Institute for International and Strategic Relations). China took the message well because it was visibly surprised by the strength of the measures taken. »

The sanctions against Russia are among the harshest ever imposed against a country of this size integrated into international trade. “Sanctions against Russia are the same type as against Iran, but we affect a much larger country”, explains Mathieu Crozet, a professor at the University of Saclay in Paris. However, the gas sector has been bypassed so far, which limits their influence.

Loss of purchasing power for Russians

These sanctions have many side effects: they lead to the mass exodus of large international groups that leave the Russian market, given that it becomes difficult to continue working in these new conditions; they cause a halt in investment and a slowdown in trade, leading to a fall in growth and, in the medium term, an increase in unemployment; they cause prices to rise and purchasing power to fall. “The subsequent impoverishment of the population is not a desired effect, but an inevitable consequence,” notes Olivier Dorgans.

→ ANALYSIS. In Russia, the economy has already suffered from Western sanctions

This shock to the Russian economy is unlikely to lead to popular uprising and regime change. Historically, there is no example of a successful revolution in a country under sanctions. Indeed, external pressure, as a rule, rather leads to a toughening of the ruling regime, which strengthens its control over its population.

Sanctions that became systematic after the Cold War

On the other hand, sanctions may create a gap in the ruling circles. And this is hope in the case of Russia. “In the case of Iran, pressure from sanctions has led some leaders to become convinced to participate in nuclear deal negotiations.”recalls Mathieu Crozet, even if Trump’s United States then chose to throw this agreement into the nettles …

For twenty years, economic weapons have increasingly been used in place of military pressure. “Before the First World War, sanctions were used to weaken the enemy country. Then they became a means of preventing wars. Their use became widespread after World War II and became systematic after the end of the Cold War., recalls Sylvie Matelli. In fact, they are the weapon of the developed countries, because they have the means of pressure, closing access to their market or their capital.

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