Sanctions Unlikely to Force Russia’s Hand: Foreign Policy Experts

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Two foreign policy experts from Curtin University, Australia, believe coordinated sanctions and boycotts on Russia will do little to quell the current invasion of Ukraine or push Vladimir Putin’s inner circle to remove him.

Democratic nations have been in lockstep in the past week, rolling out a wave of sanctions to increase pressure on the Russian elite to cease the invasion of its neighbour.

Some measures include kicking Russian financial institutions off the SWIFT global payments system—integral for inter-country money transfers; freezing the assets of oligarchs; restricting Russian planes from accessing European, American, and Canadian airspace; and stopping Moscow’s Central Bank from accessing currency reserves overseas.

Companies, retirement funds, and non-profit organisations have also contributed via boycotts of the Russian market in one form or another.

While the means have been precedented, actual results may be slow-coming, according to Joseph Siracusa, adjunct professor of international diplomacy.

Epoch Times Photo
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow on March 2, 2022. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

“They have a one in three success rate,” he told The Epoch Times. “They’re not going to work in the short term, sanctions only tend to work in the long term.”

The professor believed the methods were designed to compel Putin’s resignation or regime change but said this was also an unlikely scenario.

He pointed to the situation in apartheid-era South Africa, which was subject to international sanctions for years.

“It was the common man who suffered,” he said. “People were still driving their Mercedes and going into their beautiful homes, factories, and all the rest. Sanctions often hit the wrong part of society.”

“I think sanctions in many cases is a very poor substitute for directly supporting the people you want to support.”

Alexey Muraviev, head of Curtin’s Department of Social Sciences and Security Studies, warned sanctions could further entrench the Russian president’s position.

“Shortly after Putin recognised the (two) separatist regions in Ukraine. His popularity jumped by 10 percent from about 60 to 71 percent,” he told The Epoch Times. “It’s a bit hard to say how the Russians feel now given the war and devastation.”

“The Russian state is tightening its grip on freedom of speech and two major opposition media outlets have been shut down,” he said.

“The narrative present in the Russian media space is ‘Blame the West, blame Americans,’” he added.

Muraviev was also concerned cutting off Moscow from the developed world could drive it closer towards Beijing.

The Chinese leadership’s reaction to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has been muted and shifted between tacit approval or disapproval of Russia’s actions.

Siracusa said Beijing was “nervous” about the developments, noting that Russo-China relations have always been driven by “pragmatism” and not loyalty.

“The Chinese want to take on the Americans in the Super Bowl of economics, AI, and the future, and Putin wants to burn the stadium down and everybody in it—it doesn’t suit the Chinese at all,” he said. “This is not how the Chinese rule; they would not be into this naked aggression business.”

Trade relations between China and Ukraine totalled US$19 billion last year, and it is also a critical partner for Beijing’s expansionist infrastructure policy, the Belt and Road Initiative.

“Ukraine is the steppingstone for the Belt and Road in that neck of the woods, and the Chinese are not going to cut their throats because Putin decided to go on the warpath.”

Daniel Y. Teng

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Daniel Y. Teng is based in Sydney. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Got a tip? Contact him at daniel.teng@epochtimes.com.au.



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