Should the U.S. Be Sanctioning Russia?
Western governments have responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with swift and severe sanctions targeting the country’s financial institutions, state-owned businesses, wealthy individuals, and even President Vladimir Putin himself.
The hope is that the resulting economic pain will encourage the Russian public and elite to pressure Putin’s government into dialing back its war against its neighbor. But an inherent feature of this strategy is harming ordinary Russians who aren’t responsible for their dictatorial government’s war and who have few options for influencing its behavior.
As the pain of sanctions on the Russian people and the Russian economy mounts, and Western leaders propose tougher measures still, it’s worth asking whether these sanctions are effective or even justified.
On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced a number of “unprecedented and expansive” sanctions on Russia.
They include cutting off Russia’s two largest banks, the majority government-owned Sberbank and VTB Bank, from processing payments through the U.S. financial system. U.S. companies are also largely being prohibited from lending to or buying shares in state-owned companies ranging from Russia’s largest railroad operator to Rostelecom, the country’s largest telecommunication company.
These broader sanctions are being coupled with asset freezes and travel bans on a number of wealthy Russian individuals, or “oligarchs,” and their family members linked to Putin’s government. The Biden administration followed this up with sanctions on Putin personally today.
The U.S. Commerce Department is also banning the export of “semiconductors, computers, telecommunications, information security equipment, lasers, and sensors”, reports CBS. Congressional Democrats have proposed to go even further by jacking up tariffs on all Russian imports.
President Joe Biden has been quick to tout the impact of the sanctions his administration has imposed thus far.
“We’ve already seen the impact of our actions on the Russian currency—the ruble—which early today hit its weakest level ever,” the president said on Twitter yesterday. “The Russian stock market plunged today. And the Russian government’s borrowing rate spiked above 15 percent.”
We’ve already seen the impact of our actions on the Russian currency — the ruble — which ea
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