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The Case for Stronger Russia Sanctions

The claim that Western sanctions against Russia do not work or are unjustified does not hold water. Russia’s economy has been stagnant since Western sanctions were imposed seven years ago, and the Kremlin’s continued hybrid war against the West has made an even tighter sanctions regime an urgent priority.

STOCKHOLM – Who thinks Western sanctions on Russia have been ineffective and unjustified? The Kremlin peddles this line, of course, but then contradicts itself by calling for sanctions to end. One also hears similar arguments from investment bankers hawking Russian bonds. Obviously, they would benefit from the lifting of sanctions that have crushed foreign direct investment into Russia. Beyond these two groups, the only others opposing the current sanctions are authoritarian politicians and academics hoping to ingratiate themselves with the Kremlin.

In any case, the argument against sanctions holds no water. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea and launched an (unofficial) military offensive in eastern Ukraine. The United States and the European Union could not remain passive in the face of such blatant violations of international agreements, so they responded sensibly. As a result of severe financial sanctions, the Kremlin stopped its offensive after having seized only 3% of Ukraine’s easternmost territory, far less than what Russian President Vladimir Putin had envisioned on April 17, 2014, when he advocated taking all of southeastern Ukraine to re-establish “Novorossiya.”

The sanctions have had the intended economic effect. Whereas Central and Eastern Europe’s GDP has grown by 3-5% per year since 2014, Russia’s has stagnated. The Kremlin blames this on low oil prices; yet while oil and gas prices have risen, Russia’s economy remains flat. Among the EU countries, only Bulgaria has a lower per capita GDP than Russia today.

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