Can sanctions work? – The New York Times

Eight years ago, after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, the United States and its allies harshly condemned the aggression and imposed economic sanctions on Russia.

It hardly matters.

Russia still controls Crimea. The Russian economy, after going through a recession, soon began to grow again. President Vladimir Putin remains firmly in control of his government – and has now begun another invasion, this time of eastern Ukraine.

In response, President Biden yesterday announced a series of new sanctions, imposed in tandem with the UK and the European Union. Putin’s aggression, Biden said, is “a clear violation of international law and it requires a resolute response from the international community.” Biden also signaled that more sanctions are likely to come.

The obvious question is whether these sanctions are more effective than previous ones. Today’s newsletter offers possibilities.

The 2014 sanctions against Russia had some impact – arguably more than many realized. They make it harder for Russian banks to get foreign loans and restrict Western companies from working with Russian oil companies, among other steps.

In the summer of 2014, the Russian economy was in recession and it continued to shrink for two years. The value of the ruble plunges on global markets, raising the price of many goods for companies and consumers. It is more difficult for Russian businesses to raise money for new projects.

These economic problems appear to have dented Putin’s domestic support. His approval rate among Russians initially rose after the Crimean invasion – to around 80% – before dropping. It has ranged from 60% to 65% for most of the past two years, according to Levada Center. Last year, opposition groups staged some of the biggest protests in Putin’s nearly two decades in power.

Sanctions might even be painful enough to deter Putin from invading eastern Ukraine in 2014, which he appears to be planning, much like Anders Aslund and Maria Snegovaya argued in a report by the Atlantic Council.

However, the sanctions have clearly not rearranged Russian politics. Finally, Putin moved to lay claim to eastern Ukraine this week. Experts say the limited effectiveness of the sanctions is not surprising, because they are less ambitious than sanctions the US has imposed on other countries that follow the rules globally, such as Iran, North Korea and Venezuela.

“In 2014, when Putin invaded Ukraine for the first time and annexed Crimea, the West acted too slowly and timidly at first,” Michael McFaul, US ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, told CNN. me yesterday.

One reason is that the 2014 sanctions were the product of negotiations with European countries that wanted to be more cautious than the US. Russians and the global economy.

The reality is that for sanctions to have a major political impact, they often need to be harsh. “Smart” or “targeted sanctions” won’t work, say Edward Fishman and Chris Miller, two international relations experts, recently wrote on Politico. “To really impose pain on Russia, the US and Europe will also have to shoulder some of the burden – although, fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the drag on Western economies.”

Biden acknowledged many of the same things in his speech at the White House yesterday. “Defending freedom will come at a cost, for us and at home,” he said. “We need to be honest about that.” He added that he would take steps to minimize the increase in gas prices.

This is the approach the US took towards Iran more than a decade ago. It has imposed tough sanctions, though they are likely to affect world oil markets and damage to Iranians’ standard of living. Those sanctions helped spur the Iranian regime to negotiate over its nuclear program.

In the case of Russia, a series of tougher sanctions would begin with a refusal to buy the country’s oil – Russia’s biggest source of revenue by far – perhaps in phases to reduce reduce price increases in the global market. It could also involve restricting exports to Russia, such as auto and computer parts, or banning other banks from working with Russian banks.

Russia can still access parts of the global economy, especially if China continues to work with it. But the effect can still be substantial, because the Russian economy is now quite integrated with the European and American economies.

Which path are Biden and the EU choosing?

They have already imposed sanctions that Mr. Biden said exceed the 2014 sanctions while still falling short of what the US and Europe can impose. The measures include stopping the Russian government from borrowing money in Western financial markets and cutting off two major Russian banks from the US financial system.

(My colleague Edward Wong has more details here. And Times Opinion’s Peter Coy wrote that isolating banks can be an effective tool.)

In the short term, those sanctions will almost certainly not stop Putin from threatening Ukraine. Melissa Eddy, a Times reporter in Berlin, told my colleague Claire Moses: “Russia has a lot of cash right now. “They have a war chest.”

But there are two major uncertainties: whether the sanctions will hurt the Russian economy once that war stockpile is withdrawn; and whether the US and Europe will impose tougher sanctions if Putin continues his war.

Steven Erlanger, The Times’ chief diplomatic correspondent for Europe, told us: “The US and EU have been working hard for more than eight weeks to pull together what will be a severe, painful package of sanctions. Painful, gigantic designed to hurt. They have yet to enact all of those potential sanctions. But yesterday’s announcement, Steven added, “gives them a chance to attack Putin more if he does more.”

Yesterday, Biden vowed to stick to that strategy: “If Russia goes further with this invasion,” he said, “we are prepared to go further.”

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The United States women’s soccer team reached an agreement yesterday to equalize wages with the men’s team, ending a major discrimination war.

In other words, the U.S. women’s team is the most successful international team of the past three decades. Since 1990, they have won four World Cups and four Olympic gold medals; No other team, male or female, has won more than two of the two.

In 2016, several players on the women’s team filed complaints alleging that they earned much less than members of the men’s middleweight team. That started a six-year battle with US Soccer, which run both teams.

US Soccer has taken several steps that have outraged women’s team supporters. First, the union argued that the men brought in more money and therefore deserved higher pay. (The women’s team has been equally lucrative in recent years, The Wall Street Journal found.) And in 2020, lawyers for US Soccer argued that “indisputable science” has proven that women are inferior to men.

Female athletes in basketball and other sports have since pushed themselves for better pay. “The domino effect,” Alex Morgan, a veteran member of the team, said yesterday, “We are really proud of it.” – Tom Wright-Piersanti, a Morning Editor

For more: This is the time of battle. Can sanctions work? – The New York Times

Fry Electronics Team

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