What Is the Use of European Sanctions Against Putin’s Russia if They Mainly Sanction the Europeans?
Europeans are the most impacted so far, and Putin continues his heinous war in Ukraine.
On the proposal of the President of the European Commission, the members of the European Union adopted their sixth set of sanctions against Russia on June 17, 2022, to punish it for its military invasion of Ukraine. When Ursula von der Leyen presents these sanctions to the press, they seem to make sense. But when you examine them more closely, you become skeptical.
On the last train, there is a ban on Europeans importing Russian oil by ship. How does this sanction punish the Russian military-political apparatus and slow it down in its attack on Ukrainian territory?
Russian hydrocarbons are exported to India, China, Africa, and South America; the revenues of Russian energy groups have never been so high; the exchange rate between the ruble and US dollar has increased since the beginning of the war on February 24, 2022.
On the other hand, the punishment inflicted on European consumers by the boycott of Russian oil and gas is very clear. It is a punishment that Europe is inflicting on itself, first by the explosion of its energy bills, then by the renunciation of its previous ecological commitments.
We are going to reopen, in Europe, coal-fired power plants, which poison the population with their fine particles and which have a disastrous record in terms of CO2 emissions. We see environmentalists accepting the import of American shale gas, once an evil energy in their eyes.
A second European sanction that is quite disturbing is the forced withdrawal of Sberbank, the largest Russian deposit bank, from the Swift circuit for international payments. It is hard to see how this sanction could bring the Kremlin hierarchs to resignation. On the other hand, it will hinder and isolate millions of Russian depositors from the world. Since when do collective punishments work in international relations?
Historians have established that they are usually counterproductive. They rally bullied populations around their leaders rather than away from them. How successful were trade sanctions in Cuba against the Castro regime, in North Korea against the communist regime, in Iraq against the Baathist regime, in Afghanistan against the Taliban regime, in Iran against the mullahs' regime? We are still asking the question.
The Trump Administration has subjected Iran to a maximum sanctions regime. President Biden has maintained them, to obtain a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, with additional constraints against the Pasdaran. This does not work: the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, announced on June 25, 2022, to the European negotiator Josep Borrell, that Iran would continue its uranium enrichment as long as the West did not waive these constraints.
When it comes to diplomacy, why do Europeans so often follow the Americans in their dumbest and never in their smartest? Sanctions are the dumbest thing they can do, punishing populations and rarely leaders. Especially for the Europeans, who are now shooting themselves in the foot.
Aid through intelligence and arms deliveries, on the other hand, is much more intelligent. It changes the balance of power on the ground. By providing accurate and reliable intelligence from the beginning of the conflict, American intelligence agencies have provided crucial assistance to the Ukrainian defense. The Russian plan for a surprise airborne offensive against Kyiv was better prepared than one might think. But it failed because the American cyberwarfare teams had managed to penetrate the secrets of the Russian general staff, which they immediately passed on to the Ukrainians.
To reduce Russia's aggressiveness towards Ukraine, Europe must use both the stick and the carrot. The stick is not sanctions - which amount to self-flagellation - but the establishment of a balance of power on the ground that is favorable to the Ukrainians, thanks to the continuous delivery of modern heavy weapons and reliable intelligence. The carrot is to promise the Russians a bright future when they decide to return to the European family.
Counterproductive is the statement of the German Chancellor on June 22, 2022, that he does not see normal relations between Europe and Russia “in the foreseeable future”. This can only reinforce the Russian tendency to throw itself into the arms of the Chinese: a movement that will reinforce the technological and economic partition of the world, which is not in the interest of Europeans. In the end, what are European sanctions sanctioning, if not Europe in the first place?