Andrei V. Belyi is a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Government and Politics and an affiliated scholar at the Centre for EU-Russia Studies at the University of Tartu. He teaches in the international master’s programme in International Relations and Regional Studies.
Western sanctions on Russian oil and gas industries have started to take a significant although indirect effect. It would be still too much to expect that sanctions would have their immediate political effect on Russia’s position towards Ukraine. Nevertheless, important difficulties have emerged for the world largest hydrocarbon producer.
In fact, the history of sanctions demonstrates that economic pressure only rarely leads to a political effect. It could be that cases of sanctions against South Africa is amongst the rare examples of a political change followed by an economic isolation, whereas a number of unsuccessful stories (Cuba, Iran and Iraq are the most notorious examples) demonstrate the limited effect of economic instruments in international affairs.
In most of the cases, sanctions become an excuse for economic failures and rather reinforce a hardliner geopolitical choice of the states in question. Likewise, Russian political elites, and first of all Russian President, are not planning to give up their position on Ukraine even under a context of an economic hardship. Therefore, many in Russia claim that sanctions don’t have an effect. Continue reading