No. 34




Have sanctions worked in Russian-Ukrainian conflict?

14 December 2016


RiTo No. 34, 2016

Spring 2017 will mark three years since the international community imposed sanctions against Russia because of the conflict in Ukraine, in the hopes of ushering in a solution to the conflict. However, the conflict in Ukraine has persevered against all expectations, and the Cold War-like opposition between the West and Russia has deepened.

With this in mind, and to help make future decisions, it is important to focus on finding solutions to the following questions:

Can anti-Russian sanctions fulfil their purpose and release Ukraine from Russia’s pressure?

Has the low efficiency of the standards so far been caused by the lack of funds, their insufficient use, lack of clear and predictable objective, or the different views of the public and the experts on how to define success in this particular situation?

What could be achieved in the near future in conflict resolution; which new strategies are worth considering to ensure success?

To respond to these questions, this article views the theoretical opinions and received experiences on the application of sanctions; discusses the methodical questions related to measuring the impact of the sanctions; analyses the results of the anti-Russian sanctions applied during the Ukrainian conflict; and debates possible strategies that the Western countries could use in further conflict resolution. The author bases his political suggestions on the so-called dollar auction model, to illustrate a situation where superiority in initiative, targeted contribution, and quantitative resources can combine for a successful deterrence.

A study is important and necessary in practice since the West has considerable potential in putting pressure on Russia from the economic and technological point of view. In light of this, the international community should not accept the current impasse of sanctions, but rather analyse the possibilities to use additional economic and political leverage – more specifically for Ukraine, and more broadly for Russia’s aggressive foreign policy in general – to achieve the original objectives of the sanctions. We must find a definite model for changes; one which would allow us to take advantage of our economic and technological superiority.

Otherwise – i.e. if the sanction package is not reformed, and the initiative is not taken through the application of measures – Russia might interpret its survival of the so-called pressure phase as a strategic victory which would justify the risks taken so far. If we give Russia room to breathe at the current stage, the imposers of the sanctions run the risk that Russia would forcefully retake the initiative in the Ukrainian conflict, should the oil and gas prices bounce back, and the economic growth restore. And that could no longer be slowed down by standard economic sanctions.