Why Slapping Sanctions On Russia Won't Work
In response to the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea in late February of 2014, the United States, the EU, and their allies have slapped numerous sanctions on Russian officials and businesses. The idea is that these will persuade Russian leaders to change policy, but frankly this will not work.
While sanctions caused the value of the Ruble to plummet and the prices of food to skyrocket, they failed to weaken the Putin administration. On the contrary, they seemed to have strengthened it. As reported in The Guardian, President Putin’s approval ratings have soared from the low 60’s just two years ago to a whopping 89 percent in June. How could this dramatic rise in popularity be possible when the Russian economy is failing and the standards of living for the average Russian are dropping at an exponential rate? Since Napoleon’s invasion in 1812 to Hitler’s double cross during WWII – which cost the Soviet Union over 26 million lives – foreign invaders have stormed through Russia, causing mass mayhem and destroying countless Russian lives.
Following that, Russians have often had a sense they were constantly under threat, from nuclear annihilation during the Cold War to the more recent expansion of NATO into formerly Eastern Bloc countries like Poland and former Czechoslovakia. These feelings were increased tenfold during the pro-EU protests in Kiev and the forceful removal of then President and pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych by the Ukrainian Parliament. Many in Russia feared that as a result of these violent protests, Ukraine was going to join the EU. Following that possibility, Ukraine could revoke Russia’s access to their Black Sea naval port in Sevastopol, which would cause Russia to lose its sphere of influence in the Black Sea to NATO. Both the Kremlin and the Russian people saw this scenario as totally unacceptable.
The Russian-backed invasion of Crimea and the loss of over 6,000 innocent lives followed by Western sanctions on the perceived perpetrators. However, these sanctions have actually emboldened the Russian government. Putin uses them as proof of Western aggression against the Russian people, giving him credibility to the claims that it was the West that started the war in eastern Ukraine. Just like they did during the Cold War, the Russian government has successfully drummed up public support with nationalistic rhetoric, calling for unity in times of hardship and in the face of foreign aggression. The patriotic Russian people have fallen in line with their government in hopes that Russia will persevere. These sanctions have not and will not weaken Moscow. They are empowering it.