Sanctions Against Russia: A Failure or Slow Burner?

The sanctions placed on Russia thus far are discussed to evaluate whether they go far enough or not.

Tom Barlow
9th March 2022
Stand with Ukraine rally at the Lincoln Memorial (image credit: Flickr)
A selection of Russian banks will be banned from Swift, as European leaders finally come together to detach Russia from the international finance system. But is it enough?

Calls to expel Russia from Swift have been ongoing ever since Russia invaded on the 24th February. Germany and Italy are two countries which heavily rely on the importation of gas, with Russia supplying around 60% of the former’s gas. Leaders Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Sergio Mattarella were therefore reluctant to impose meaningful sanctions, due to the knock-on effects that would have on the two countries’ energy supplies. Germany initially halted the Nord Stream 2 initiative as a sanction against Russia, which is a pipeline intended to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany. The pipeline had not been opened prior to the sanctions, however, meaning such German sanctions were in reality weak - and Germany had endured criticism for this.

Russia’s quick-paced storm into Kyiv (the capital of Ukraine) in a matter of days have seen European leaders re-evaluate their decisions made when Russia first invaded. The new sanctions, including removing Russia from Swift are directly aimed at reducing the the ability of the Russian central bank to spend its foreign currency reserves. 

A further sanction has been the ending of sales of golden visa, which the White House announced in collaboration with the UK, Italy, Germany, France and Canada. Russian oligarchs have been able to effectively buy citizenships in various countries such as the UK, with no need to prove efficiently that their money was obtained legitimately. Liz Truss, the UK’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, has claimed that she has a ‘hit-list’ of Russian oligarchs facing sanctions. Truss also explained how the government would be accelerating the roll-out of the new economic crime bill this week, in an attempt to target people’s assets more easily, such as properties and other possessions of the Russian oligarchs.  

An unfolding situation affecting the football world is Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich. He has given stewardship of the club to the trustees of the club’s charity foundation, who’s chairman, Bruce Buck, is also the chairman of Chelsea FC. As of the 27th February, the trustees have yet to confirm whether they accept Abramovich's decision. Not the best preparation on the eve of a cup final for the Pensioners. Truss refused to comment on whether Abramovich was on her ‘hit-list,’ but it is believed that the close relations between Vladimir Putin and the Chelsea owner are of great significance in the unfolding situation with the oligarch.  

RUSI think-tanker Tom Keatinge exclaimed that the UK’s first bombardment of sanctions were more like bringing a ‘peashooter to a gunfight.’ Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Tom Tugendhat, has expressed how we need to hit out hard and early and so will the failure in rolling out more severe sanctions earlier be of detriment to NATO countries? Will the asset freezing of oligarchs and banning of selected Russian banks from Swift be enough to dry out Putin’s $500bn reserve quick enough? Unless Russia step foot on a NATO country then these sanctions will have to be enough, and they will continually grow to become more severe in an attempt to cripple the aggressive Putin regime. Leaders will have to move in co-ordination, but quickly, as each day more innocent lives are lost.  

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