Experts said Europe is 'shooting itself in the foot' with current ‘anti-Russian sanctions strategy’

12:02 03.04.2024 •

“How come…” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Western sanctions have done nothing to deter Russia from continuing its SMO in Ukraine and may even be harming Britain and Europe more than Moscow, writes ‘The Daily Mail’.

More than two years after US President Joe Biden declared 'the rouble would be turned to rubble' by sanctions, the Russian economy looks if anything more resilient with GDP growth hitting 3.6% in 2023 – outstripping every G7 country.

Instead, Western efforts to cripple the Kremlin's war effort by freezing funds, booting Russian banks from international payment systems and ceasing trade have only prompted Moscow to build better relations with other international partners, including China and Iran.

Now, experts are sounding the alarm, warning that Britain and her European partners will only become weaker in the face of their foes - and more subservient to the US - if sanctions continue apace.

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, Dr. Ksenia Kirkham, a specialist in economic warfare at King's College London, said Europe is 'shooting itself in the foot' with its sanctions strategy and has pushed Russia to 'escape Western mechanisms of control' and become more self-reliant.

And Alan W. Cafruny, professor of international affairs at the US' Hamilton College, argued Europe's decision to cut off Russian oil and gas imports has done nothing but damage their own economies and line the pockets of US corporations - all while Russia continues to export its hydrocarbons out east unperturbed.

The West's ruthless commitment to punishing Russia with economic warfare has already endured for a decade.

America and the EU slapped Russian entities with sanctions as early as 2014 after the annexation of Crimea, a tactic which the UK Foreign Office said aimed to 'deter, disrupt and demonstrate' - that is, to deter further Russian aggression, disrupt its nefarious activities and demonstrate the West's resolve.

'Sanctions influenced Russia's behaviour enormously, but not in the direction of stated objectives by the sender states,' Dr. Kirkham said.

'If the objective was to deter Russia, then sanctions were distinctly counterproductive - they have simply made Russia more aggressive towards the West, especially towards the US.'

But Dr. Kirkham believes these tactics have only expedited Russian efforts to undermine the West's dominance in global political and economic forums.

'Russia's isolation is a myth,' she said flatly.

'Moscow has been forming strong alliances with its BRICS partners and some other states in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, with the aim of creating a new global balance of power.

'What we witness now is (Russia's) development of alternative trade routes, payment systems, and duty-free zones that bypass sanctions and escape Western mechanisms of control.

'The most alarming factor for the West is that, in the long run, its overreliance on sanctions compliance will undermine the very mechanisms through which sanctions effectively operate – i.e. the dollar hegemony and control over supply chains.'

Supporters of the West's sanctions regime claim that Russia's current economic strength will not last, arguing that the true impact will be felt in the coming months and years as the war rumbles on.

But Dr. Kirkham doubts this, arguing that Russia has in recent months begun to shore up its deficiencies that sanctions would be expected to capitalise on.

'In 2022-2024, with a record high defence spending (7.5% of GDP), we have witnessed a boost in Russia's military capacities - the country possesses all the necessary natural resources, workforce, and knowledge to respond to the needs of ''special military operation'',' she said.

'The gaps in some segments like electronics and machinery have been successfully covered by Russia's partners that now not only replenish Russia's shortages in some key components but also share their expertise and knowledge to secure Russia's future self-sufficiency and domestic production.

Cafruny went even further, suggesting the impact of the war and resulting sanctions may even be a net benefit to Moscow.

'To be sure, the militarisation of the economy may lead to bottlenecks down the road, but if anything the overall impact of the war on the Russian economy has been generally positive,' he declared.

'European countries have suffered greatly from a ''sanctions boomerang'',' Cafruny said.

'Throughout 2022-2023 natural gas prices soared, especially devastating the German economy based on relatively inexpensive natural gas.

'US LNG exporters, having pressed both the Trump and Biden administrations long before the war to cut off Western Europe from Russian energy, have profited massively from increased exports to Europe.'

As a result, the 'hub and spoke' relationship of European nations to the US will only solidify, with Britain and EU states becoming yet more reliant on America for military protection, oil and gas imports, and market access. 

With no end in sight for war in Ukraine and the Russian army making slow but steady progress in the Donbas, Western policymakers now face a troubling paradox.

Unwilling to provide direct military support to Kyiv, the US, UK and Europe have little option but to continue awarding untold billions in aid packages to President Zelensky while shoring up loopholes and deficits in the sanctions regime.

But if the last decade has proved anything, it's that the current approach to sanctions is not working as intended, and in the eyes of many has ceased to be effective altogether.


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