With the war in Ukraine going into its next phase, so too are the set of economic sanctions imposed onto Russia, its leadership and citizens. Will sanctions yield any result? In the short term, they seem to have had limited effect. First, sanctions were unsuccessfully used to dissuade Mr. Putin and his comrades to embark on their Ukraine adventure. Currently, they seem to have little effect stopping them from prolonging a brutal conflict.
Surely, there must be a recipe for using the right type and dose of sanctions in combination with other types of non-violent measures to stop unnecessary bloodshed. At least, I'd like to believe there is.
In the political and cultural magazine The New Statesman, Nicholas Mulder writes about the power of economic sanctions. He compares the current situation in the Russia-Ukraine war with various previous conflicts and finds most similarity with the Italo-Ethiopian war in the mid 1930s. Like in those days, there had been a clear military build-up and there was disagreement about the toughness of the imposed sanctions.
Sanctions seem most effective to take the 'energy' (pun intended) out of a conflict. This is however a gradual process and has the risk of backfiring in unexpected ways. After Ethiopian resistance proved to last longer than expected and with his own forces and resources depleting, Mussolini authorised the use of poison gas to force a breakthrough (and succeeded).
Should sanctions become tougher (quickly) or should we focus on other routes? Mr. Mulder concludes:
"Positive assistance for the victim, not just negative sanctions against the aggressor, should be a top priority for all those concerned about the survival of free nations."