Staunton, July 26 – The West is unlikely to lift its current sanctions because Moscow is unlikely to change the policies that led Western countries to impose them in the first place, but at the same time, they are unlikely to intensify them because sanctions have not had their intended impact and their imposition has hurt Western economies, Vladislav Inozemtsev says.
That will lead to a pause in the imposition of sanctions, the Russian economist says; but that in and of itself will have three important geopolitical consequences. First, it will mean that Moscow will feel free to act even more aggressively, confident that the West isn’t going to do anything more radical (ridl.io/ru/pereryv-v-sankcionnoj-vojne/).
Second, it will make it ever more difficult to maintain Western unity on Russia because some countries in Europe, more tightly connected to Russia by gas and other resources, will want a rapprochement with Moscow, while the United States, much less tied in that regard, will oppose doing so in a way that looks like a retreat from Western unity and its own leadership of the West.
And third, Inozemtsev says, it will mean that Russian actions that prompted the imposition of sanctions in the first place, be it aggression against Ukraine or mistreatment of dissidents, will recede in importance and that those issues will gradually shift to the periphery of Western attention allowing Moscow to continue to act as it has while escaping responsibility.
The immediate aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Anschluss of Crimea “was probably the only window of opportunity the West had to launch a massive sanctions attack against Russia,” all the more so since the Kremlin didn’t expect it and wasn’t capable of coping with even the consequences of the sanctions that were imposed.
But because Russia remains a nuclear power and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the West was not prepared to organize a sanctions regime against it like the one it did against Yugoslavia in the 1990s, thus “dooming” what it did do to failure. Russia hasn’t changed course.
Moscow “has not become less aggressive, it has not withdrawn from the territories it has occupied, it has not reduced its subversive moves in the EU, and it has not shown itself more willing to cooperate,” Inozemtsev points out. Instead, it has highlighted how limited the West’s options are given Western governments’ unwillingness to suffer from sanctions against Russia.
What this means is that “no new sanctions will be imposed, but existing ones are unlikely to be lifted,” a pause that won’t change Russian policy or lead to progress on any of the issues that prompted the West to impose the sanctions in the first place, thus solidifying the change in international relations Moscow’s aggression led to in the first place.
“It is thus high time to acknowledge that the sanctions policy has become part of the landscape of interstate communication rather than a means of persuading” Russia to change course. Moscow isn’t going to change because of sanctions; and if the West wants it to, it will have to adopt other policies rather than just more sanctions.