NATO countries are now trying to“Stop the war without going to war”. The formula is by Emmanuel Macron. It describes well the objective of the economic sanctions adopted against Russia, the day after its armed intervention in Ukraine.
→ EXPLANATION. War in Ukraine: Decathlon announces its departure from Russia, other companies cling
With these measures, the developed countries strike individually personalities close to the Kremlin, whose assets are frozen. They also attack whole sectors of the Russian economy, organize the isolation of the country and its banishment. Russian industry can no longer obtain certain electronic components it needs. Direct flights to Europe and the United States are on hold. Commercial transactions have been made more difficult and Russia can no longer finance itself from Western investors. The Russian central bank has been deprived of a good part of its foreign exchange reserves…
Drowning out Russia’s finances
With these measures, several effects are sought: “The sanctions are aimed primarily at reducing the resources of the Russian state, in order to prevent it from financing its war”, explains Olivier Dorgans, lawyer for the firm Ashurst and specialist in sanctions. It is also a question of creating pressure on the circles of power, in order to show that the choices of the Kremlin are not without consequences. “These sanctions are also a way to send a message to other countries that might be tempted to follow Russia’s examplenotes Sylvie Matelly, deputy director of Iris (Institute of international and strategic relations). China received this message well, because it was visibly surprised by the strength of the measures that were deployed. »
The sanctions against Russia are among the heaviest ever adopted against a country of this size and so integrated into international trade. “The sanctions against Russia are of the same type as those taken against Iran, but we affect a much larger country”, explains Matthieu Crozet, professor at the University of Paris Saclay. However, the gas sector has been spared for the time being, which limits their effect.
A loss of purchasing power for Russians
These sanctions have multiple collateral effects: they lead to massive departures of large international groups who leave the Russian market, considering that it is becoming difficult to continue to operate in this new context; they cause a halt in investment and a slowdown in trade, which will lead to a fall in growth and, in the medium term, an increase in unemployment; they cause prices to rise and purchasing power to fall. “The ensuing impoverishment of the population is not the desired effect, but it is an inevitable consequence”, notes Olivier Dorgans.
→ ANALYSIS. In Russia, the economy already affected by Western sanctions
This shock to the Russian economy is unlikely to lead to popular revolt and regime change. Historically, there is no example of a successful revolution in a country under sanctions. Indeed, external pressure leads rather, as a general rule, to a hardening of the regime in power which increases its control over its population.
Sanctions that became systematic after the Cold War
On the other hand, sanctions can create a breach within ruling circles. And that is the hope in the case of Russia. “In the Iranian case, the pressure from the sanctions ended up convincing some of the leaders to engage in the negotiation of a nuclear agreement”recalls Matthieu Crozet, even if the United States of Trump then chose to throw this agreement to the nettles…
The economic weapon has been used more and more for twenty years, as a substitute for military pressure. “Before the First World War, sanctions were used to weaken an enemy country. They then became a means of preventing wars. Their use became widespread after the Second World War and became systematic after the end of the Cold War., recalls Sylvie Matelly. They are essentially the weapon of the developed countries, because they have means of pressure by closing access to their market or their capital.