‘Sanctions and Russia’ – report and debate

Katarzyna Stachyra

The Polish Institute of International Affairs (hereinafter: PISM) published on 14 January report ‘Sanctions and Russia’[1]. This issue holds attention of all international community, because recession in Russian economy and changes in trade relation with Western world influence not only concerned states, but also other powerful actors, such as China. Are sanctions effective and sufficient measure in the light of violation of international law by Russia? Which consequences are seen currently and what can we expect in the future? Those questions were asked during debate with the participation of Jarosław Ćwiek-Karpowicz (PISM), Marek Menkiszak (the Centre for Eastern Studies), Ivan Rassokhin (the Centre for Polish-Russian Business Cooperation) and Arleta Bojke as a moderator (TVP’s correspondent in Moscow).

Sanctions in PISM’s assessment


The report begins with explanation of the nature and mechanisms of sanctions. Then, authors try to assess sanction’s impact on various areas, such as Russian economy, politics, regions, bureaucracy, oligarchs, energy, military sector and foreign policy. Using statistical data, analysis and press reports PISM describes changes in Russia and presents interesting background of some phenomena which helps readers to understand situation. According to the report, general conclusion which may be drawn is that sanctions have severe influence to Russian economy and their main advantage was to refrain from further annexation of Ukraine.

‘Sanctions have so far been the most effective instrument of Western influence on Russia’s policy towards Ukraine, stopping the Kremlin from making a greater military incursion in the country.’

Moreover, PISM emphasized that ‘the EU should be ready to impose, in tandem with the United States, new sanctions in the event that Russia breaks the fragile ceasefire and pursues, openly or covertly, more territorial gains in eastern Ukraine.’

Other voices in debate

Opposite point of view was presented during debate by some of its participants. Marek Menkiszak strongly argued, that the most ‘painful’ sanctions are not those imposed by the USA and the EU, but… by Russia itself. He said that Russian embargo on goods from EU members states has the most negative impact of the current economic situation, because Russia is heavily dependent on import from these countries. It is worth noting that Russian propaganda has convinced the public opinion that problems with the availability of some products are due to Western sanctions – not by Russian embargo, which caused the situation. M. Menkiszak added, that Russian economy would be in recession even without sanctions, because of structural problems. Nevertheless, he found sanctions needed, as they constituted a kind of punishment and showed that Western states ‘exist’ and are able to take measures jointly.

©Katarzyna Stachyra (EUROpens BLOG)

©Katarzyna Stachyra (EUROpens BLOG)

Ivan Rassokhin presented similar view. Namely, he pointed out that present crisis in Russian economy results from neglect of the past in the first place. Sanctions are just another nail in the coffin. He said that in Russia there is no specific monetary policy – The Central Bank of the Russian Federation ‘acts as a counter’. Russia did not do anything but a good impression. I. Rassokhin noted, however, that effects of sanctions may be observed especially by ordinary people in the biggest cities. He thinks that sanctions are not so unfavorable for the elite as it seems. In his opinion lack of equipment, parts and technical assistance, which is very crucial in connection with the unconventional oil extraction is the most serious, because nobody – apart from the USA – produce such a specialized equipment. I. Rassokhin also disagreed with one of the conclusions in the report related with restraint of Russia from further annexation thanks to introducing sanctions. He believed, that even without punitive measures Russia would not take another part of the territory of Ukraine – since connecting territory is not the main purpose. Russia tends to destabilize the situation in Ukraine, in order to unravel its integration plans with the EU. It goes in the current situation, and it is not necessaryto take the next steps.

Foreseeing the future

According to PISM’s report, ‘As the sanctions are relatively new, any analysis of the impact of prohibitive measures against Russia is still preliminary.’ I agree with this statement. Situation of Russian economy is complicated, and sanctions are one of the factors which aggravate it. Basing on report and information from other sources two scenarios seem to be possible. The first one assumes that Russia will fall into deeper crisis and will have to change policy towards pro-European aspiration of Ukraine and other post-Soviet states. The second scenario is related with fostering closer trade relations by Russia with Asian states, especially with China. The question is how it would determine position of Russia and China in the future? And the most important – how long will we have to wait for stable situation in Ukraine? Nonetheless, we can say proudly that the EU passed difficult test of solidarity.

[1] Full report is available on http://www.pism.pl/files/?id_plik=19045.


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