Putin: Rusia tiene misiles hipersónicos intercontinentales

Will Sanctions Deter Russia from Destroying Ukraine? Experts Have Doubts

Putin has been pressured by sanctions, but at the same time, has been able to circumvent them by finding allies who are willing to support him

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A month into the Russo-Ukrainian war, Putin’s government has been pressured by the sanctions imposed on it. At the same time, it has been able to circumvent them by seeking allies in Asia who are willing to support its measures.

On March 24, NATO members announced more sanctions against Russia. Similarly, the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, and the U.S.), pledged to work together to “cut Russia’s ability to finance (…) Putin’s war.”

Current restrictions on Russia include a ban on trade in critical technologies, broad asset freezes, and travel bans. Also, the denial of major Russian banks’ access to international capital markets, and the exclusion of Russian aircraft from international airspace.

While measures against the Russian regime are intensifying, Putin has also found ways to circumvent them. In fact, specialists say the West is actually suffering the consequences of the sanctions and in time it will be very difficult to maintain them.

Sanctions against Russia and its accomplices are necessary to persuade Putin to abandon the war. Yet, there are those who claim that these types of measures alone will not be enough to defeat the Kremlin and allow Ukraine to recover peace.

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“Putin has the nationalist card and the media to convince his people to endure the economic crisis, but in the West, I am not sure that the population will maintain the same support for sanctions for a long time if it entails a high cost,” César Sabas, an expert in international relations and security, told El American.

Specialists agree on the importance of sanctions not only being increasingly severe but also being accompanied by military and defense aid so that Ukraine has the necessary resources to defend itself against attacks.

Julia Friedlander, a geoeconomics expert at the Atlantic Council, told the BBC that tough global sanctions had “essentially evaporated” Russia’s assets. She added that what Moscow faces was unprecedented in the history of sanctions.

“Compared to what we’ve done with Iran or Venezuela, these sanctions are hitting hard, and they went from zero to 60,” she said.

Russia dodges sanctions

While Putin destroys entire cities in Ukraine, Russia lives life normally. At first, some economic sanctions directly affected its citizens, but, beyond the restrictions on social networks and media, everyday life remains as it was before the war.

Russians walk on Red Square in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, March 24, 2022. (Image: EFE)

Sabas explained that the fall of the ruble seems to have stopped, at the same time that Russia is finding in India an alternative oil market to the western one. In addition, this Thursday, March 24, it became known that in order to evade sanctions Russia is considering selling its oil and gas for Bitcoin.

In a videotaped press conference held on Thursday, the chairman of the Russian Duma Energy Committee said in translated statements that when it comes to “friendly” countries such as China or Turkey, Russia is willing to be more “flexible” with payment options.

“We see that it is a country that seemed to have its strengths to resist sanctions. There has been speculation that Russia could move to an autarkic production system, but that would be only, and if sanctions end up having a truly harsh effect. By contrast, trade with China, and as we have already discussed, India, allows it to keep an economy functioning somewhat close to normal. Russia is closing itself off from the West, but not from the rest of the world. Its national coat of arms is the double-headed eagle, while one side faces Europe, the other faces Asia. So I think Russia will close to Europe, but not to Asia or other areas,” he explained.

Will the West be able to maintain sanctions on Russia indefinitely?

Russia is the largest country in the world and has a fundamental geopolitical position that does not allow sanctions to be so harsh, and, if they are, they would affect both the West and Putin himself.

“Russia is the land mass that links Europe to Asia. The shortest air routes between London and Tokyo go through Russia. Thanks to climate change, the shortest trade route between Europe and Asia will not be the Suez Canal but the Arctic, and this is controlled by the Russians. The Chinese silk route needs to pass through Russia to reach Europe. Logistically, it does not seem sustainable to have Russia isolated for too long,” Sabas explained to El American.

Sabas recalled that Russia is one of the largest producers of fertilizers along with Belarus, and that has an impact on oil prices and the Western economy.

“Russia stopped exporting fertilizer to ‘hostile’ countries so food prices will increase. To stop buying Russian oil may mean an even greater rise in already high crude oil prices. For Europe to stop buying Russian gas and replace it with liquefied gas means buying much more expensive gas, all this in a context in which the West needs to recover from the pandemic economic crisis and control inflation,” he added.

For the moment the cards are already on the table, it only remains to wait what will be the next step of the West to put pressure on Putin, and what will be the path Russia will follow to avoid being affected even more by the consequences of the war that started.

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