Expert discussion: “Anti-Russian sanctions: the instrument of influence or demonstration of weakness”


On April 25, the International Center for Policy Studies held an expert discussion on “Anti-Russian sanctions: an instrument of influence or demonstration of weakness?”. The regime of sanctions has been implemented for four years, and the preservation or expansion of its scope has become a peculiar criterion for the success of foreign policy in general. How valid is this criterion? What can be achieved through sanctions and what is the best way of their application?

«Sanctions can help prevent further violations and the use of violence – here there are more chances of success. And this is exactly what worked in the sanctions of the West against Russia. From my point of view, the main role played by Western sanctions is precisely the suspension of further Russian aggression, “said ICPS expert Mykola Kapitonenko.

“Sanctions are an instrument, part of a strategy aimed at achieving priority goals. “And sanctions are the instrument that has its own price and fairly limited effectiveness which leads to creating complex dilemmas over time because it has rather controversial consequences,” he said.

As a rule, sanctions are imposed to influence a country that violates agreed norms, international principles with a view to changing its behaviour. They are relatively frequent: among 26 sanction programs currently conducted by the United States 12 were initiated over the past 10 years; the United Nations has imposed sanctions more than 20 times since the end of the Cold War, however before only twice. Today in the vast majority of cases there are imposed the so-called “targeted” sanctions as opposed to comprehensive sanctions, which were much more popular until the 20th century. The key difference between them is to differentiate between those responsible for implementing a particular policy of groups or individuals from the rest of the population, the expert said.

According to ICPS research, statistics of recent decades indicate that only in one of every fourth case, economic sanctions have led to significant changes in the behaviour of the state against which it was imposed. The highest effectiveness of sanctions – about 50% – is observed in the case of destabilisation of the political regime. But in such a case there are significant reservations: external factors can become a factor in consolidating society around the ruling power. Meanwhile, according to Kapitonenko, the sanction policy of the West is now not aimed at changing the regime in Russia.

Speaking about the recommendations on the application of sanctions against Ukraine by Russia, the expert emphasised the importance of maintaining meaningful dialogue with the partner states: the more profound is the understanding of the interests and controversial assessments/positions of the partners regarding anti-Russian sanctions, the more productive and prolonged cooperation will be in this direction. It is important to create a hierarchy of goals that need to be realistic, taking into account the potential and the limit of the effectiveness of sanction policy. Alongside this, restrictive measures against the Russian Federation should be expanded, as long as the emphasis be made on target sanctions, in particular personal, he said. In addition, asymmetry in relations between Ukraine and Russia should be taken into account, because, according to the expert, in this case, Ukraine is a weak and vulnerable party that essentially distinguishes Ukrainian anti-Russian sanctions from the West.

Also, economic sanctions should have a transparent procedure and control over their implementation in order not to become an instrument of internal political struggle with competitors,” Kapitonenko noted.

Source: ICPS