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Moscow will have to choose either butter or guns

Are sanctions effective against Russia? Yes, they are already hitting hard on Vladimir Putin and his allies, and their influence on the Russian economy will increase over time. Since Russia has deliberately invaded Ukraine in violation of international law, the EU has adopted a six-member sanctions package against Moscow. Our measures now target about 1,200 individuals and 98 entities in Russia, as well as a significant number of sectors of the Russian economy. These sanctions were adopted in coordination with G7 members. Their effectiveness is enhanced by the fact that more than forty other countries (including traditionally neutral countries) have adopted them or taken similar measures.

By the end of 2022, we will reduce our Russian oil imports by 90%, and we will also reduce our gas imports rapidly. These decisions are slowly freeing us from a dependency that has long hampered our political choices in the face of Vladimir Putin’s aggression. He probably believed that Europe would not dare to get involved in sanctions because of its power dependence. This is not the most trivial of the many misconceptions of the Russian government during this conflict. Of course, shutting down Russian power so quickly creates serious problems for many EU countries and for several economic sectors. But we must pay the price for defending our democracy and international law, and we are taking the necessary steps to address these issues in full solidarity.

Some may question, are these sanctions really affecting the Russian economy? The simple answer is yes. Although Russia exports a lot of raw materials, it has no choice but to import many high value-added products that it does not produce. For all advanced technologies, it is 45% dependent on Europe and 21% dependent on the United States, compared to just 11% in China.

In the military field, which is crucial in the context of the war in Ukraine, sanctions limit Russia’s ability to build precision missiles, such as Alexander or KH101. Almost all foreign car manufacturers have also decided to move out of Russia, and a few cars produced by Russian manufacturers will be sold without airbags or automatic transmission.

The oil industry is suffering not only from the departure of foreign operators, but also from the difficulty of accessing advanced technologies such as horizontal drilling. The ability of Russian industry to bring new wells into the stream may be limited. Finally, in order to maintain air traffic, Russia will have to withdraw most of its aircraft from circulation in order to recover the spare parts needed to allow others to fly. Added to this are the loss of access to financial markets, the disconnection from large global research networks, and a huge brain drain.

As for China’s proposed alternative to the Russian economy, in reality, it has remained limited, especially for high-tech products. To date, the Chinese government, which relies heavily on its exports to developed countries, has not helped Russia evade Western sanctions. Chinese exports to Russia have been consistent with those of Western countries.

Will these significant and growing influences lead Vladimir Putin to change his strategic calculations? Probably not in the near future, since his actions are not primarily guided by economic reasoning. However, by forcing him to choose butter or a gun, the restrictions keep him in a state of neglect that is slowly tightening.

About the impact of these sanctions on third countries, especially African countries, which rely on Russian and Ukrainian wheat and fertilizers, where the responsibility for the food crisis is clear. Our sanctions, in any size or shape, do not target Russian wheat or fertilizer exports while Ukraine prevents its wheat exports from being destroyed due to the Black Sea blockade and Russian aggression. If there are any such issues related to our sanctions, we are ready to take appropriate measures to address them. I have informed my African counterparts about this and told them not to be deceived by the untruths of the Russian authorities about our sanctions.

The real answer to the difficulties of the global energy and food markets is the end of the war. This cannot be achieved by obeying Russian orders, it can only be achieved by withdrawing Russia from Ukraine. Respect for the territorial integrity of the state and non-application of force is not a Western or European policy. They are the basis of all international law. Russia is silently trampling on them. Accepting such violations will open the door to global jungle law.

Contrary to what we thought just a few years ago, economic interdependence does not automatically mean the calming of international relations. This is why a transition to Europe as a force, which I have been calling for since the beginning of my command, is essential. Faced with the aggression of Ukraine, we have begun to move from purpose to action, showing that Europe can respond to provocations. Since we do not want to go to war with Russia, economic sanctions are now at the root of this reaction. They have already begun to make an impact and will do more in the coming months.

(Disclaimer: The author’s opinion does not represent the opinion of WION or ZMCL. Or WION or ZMCL does not support the opinion of the author.)

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