Are sanctions against Russia useful? Yes, they are already harming Vladimir Putin and his accomplices, and the effects on the Russian economy will only increase over time.
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Josep Borrell EU foreign minister
Since Russia deliberately violated international law by invading Ukraine, the European Union has adopted six sanctions packages against Moscow. Our actions now target approximately 1,200 individuals and 98 units in Russia, as well as a large number of sectors in the Russian economy.
The sanctions were adopted in coordination with the G7 countries. Its effectiveness is enhanced by the fact that more than forty other countries (including traditionally neutral countries) have adopted or implemented similar measures.
By the end of 2022, we will have reduced our imports of Russian oil by 90 percent, and we will rapidly reduce our gas imports. These decisions are gradually liberating us from the addiction that has long hampered our political choices in the face of Vladimir Putin’s aggressiveness.
Perhaps he thought that Europe would not dare to impose sanctions because of its dependence on energy. This was not the most lenient of the many miscalculations of the Russian regime during this conflict.
Of course, the disposal of Russian energy so quickly also creates serious difficulties for many EU countries and for many economic sectors. But this is the price we must pay to defend our democracies and international law, and we are taking the necessary steps to deal with these problems in full solidarity with one another.
Some may ask whether these sanctions have a real impact on the Russian economy? The simple answer is yes. Although Russia exports a lot of raw materials, it also has no choice but to import many high-value products that it does not produce.
For all advanced technologies, the country is 45 percent dependent on Europe and 21 percent dependent on the United States, compared to just 11 percent of China.
In the military sphere, which is crucial in connection with the war in Ukraine, sanctions limit Russia’s ability to produce precision missiles such as the Iskander or the KH 101.
Almost all foreign car manufacturers have also decided to withdraw from Russia and the few cars produced by Russian companies will be sold without airbags or automatic transmission.
The oil industry suffers not only from the withdrawal of foreign operators, but also from problems in accessing advanced technologies such as horizontal drilling. The ability of the Russian industry to put new wells into production is likely to be limited.
Finally, in order to maintain air traffic, Russia will have to withdraw the majority of its aircraft in order to recover spare parts needed for other aircraft to function normally. In addition, there is loss of access to financial markets, limited participation in large global research networks and massive brain drain.
As for the choice that China offers to the Russian economy, in fact it is still limited, especially for high-tech products.
So far, the Chinese government, which relies heavily on its exports to developed countries, has not helped Russia circumvent Western sanctions. Chinese exports to Russia have fallen in line with Western countries.
Will the above consequences make Vladimir Putin change his strategy? Perhaps not in the near future: his actions are not primarily subject to economic logic.
But by forcing him to choose butter or weapons, punishments lock him into vices that are gradually tightened.
As for the impact of sanctions on third countries, especially African countries, which depend on Russian and Ukrainian wheat and fertilizers, it is clear where the responsibility lies with regard to the food crisis.
Our sanctions in no way target Russian wheat or fertilizer exports. Ukraine is prohibited from exporting its wheat due to the blockade on the Black Sea and the devastation caused by Russian aggression.
If such problems arise with regard to our sanctions, we are ready to put in place the appropriate mechanisms to deal with them. I have reported this to my African colleagues and asked them not to be deceived by the lies of the Russian authorities regarding our sanctions.
The real solution to the difficulties in the world’s energy and food markets is to end the war.
This cannot be achieved by accepting the dictates of the Russian system. It can only be achieved with Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine.
Respect for the territorial integrity of states and the non-use of force are not Western or European principles. This is the basis of all international law. Russia happily trampled on them. Acceptance of such violations would open the door to the law of the jungle on a global scale.
Contrary to what we very naively thought only a few years ago, economic interdependence does not automatically mean a cooling of international relations. That is why the transition to Europe of power, which I have advocated since the beginning of my tenure, is so crucial.
Faced with the invasion of Ukraine, we have begun to move from intent to action by showing that Europe can respond when provoked. Since we do not want to go to war with Russia, economic sanctions are now at the heart of our response.
These are already starting to have an impact and will do more in the coming months.
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