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Sanctions Against Russia Hurt Ordinary People Most

Sanctions Against Russia Hurt Ordinary People Most

Sanctions Against Russia Hurt Ordinary People Most



March 2, 2023


Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Russia has been subjected to unprecedented sanctions. Despite the strategic purpose of these sanctions, the dire consequences for Russian citizens and businesses cannot be ignored. Sanctions have led to widespread suffering and a bleak outlook for the country’s future.

Sanctions are usually implemented as a reprimand for behaviour that concerns other countries. The intention of sanctions is sometimes democratisation, though they have historically been unsuccessful in achieving that goal. For example, U.S. against North Korea, Cuba, and Iran have been unsuccessful at transforming the countries into democracies. Many also harm citizens more than the intended leaders.

To gain a more informed opinion on the topic, I interviewed “Alice,” a Russian citizen currently residing in Moscow whose real name has been replaced with a psuedonym for her safety. Alice works as an editor of a prestigious business school’s journal and is well-informed on the issue of sanctions. Despite the seversity of Western sanctions, the Russian government has not withdrawn from Ukraine.

Instead, Russia has slowly become less reliant on Western goods. Alice explains that Moscow’s shelves are full – there is no shortage of food, medical supplies, or other necessities.

Most Russian citizens’ suffering has come from Western businesses, particularly banks, leaving the nation. Many Russians have their money stored in Western banks, in dollars and euros, and the withdrawal of companies such as Mastercard have had a noticeable effect on citizens, especially those that had their funds frozen while travelling.

Sanctions have actually helped Putin consolidate power, because of the ways in which they play into his narrative of Russia vs. the West. Western nations’ attempts to stop Russia from importing and exporting goods fits perfectly into the Kremlin’s narrative that NATO is plotting Russia’s downfall. From the perspective of the average citizen, sanctions are definitive proof that Putin is correct in waging war.

Russians have adopted a victim mentality, and the West’s sanctions, while ineffective in altering everyday life enough to cause citizens to reject the war, have just reaffirmed hostility toward the West. In addition, a lack of Western businesses and products in Russia further helps create an image of “us vs. them.” A lack of Western businesses leaves Russians with only Kremlin-sponsored products and ideas, making them more likely to side with Putin’s agenda.

The strategy behind many of the West’s sanctions has been to target oligarchs, businessmen, and the elite of Russia. When asked about her opinion on this strategy, Alice answered with a quintessentially Russian anecdote, “When a drunk father comes home to his children telling them that he has been fired, they ask if that means he’ll drink less. He answers, no, it will just mean that you, the children, will eat less.” Alice is implying that the oligarchs and the major business owners will not curb their extravagant lifestyles or settle for less due to these sanctions; instead, they’ll just lay off workers and raise prices.

Sanctions are likely to harm Russian civilians in other ways as well. Eighteen percent of Russia’s GDP comes from oil and natural gas, the products most targeted by sanctions. The oil price cap recently introduced by the EU is set to limit Russia’s oil revenues and decrease government income, after the Nord- Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, the main gas thoroughfares from Russia to Europe, were shut down and then destroyed.

Russia is unlikely to decrease its military budget during a war, and oligarchs won’t chip in from their own pockets, so the funding cuts will likely come from social services. Already, Russia has recently decreased its federal budget while increasing its military spending, which has led to a funding cut of 10% in all areas besides defence. This will lead to lower quality healthcare, worse social welfare systems, and less money spent on public issues.

Historically, countries are quick to issue sanctions, but slow to lift them, so we can expect the situation for civilians will worsen as time goes by. As a method of promoting international diplomacy and punishing bad behaviour, sanctions have failed time and time again. Yet, the West continues to implement them.

The search for another method of peaceful intervention is crucial, because sanctions clearly aren’t the answer.

Benjamin Who is an editor-in-chief of The Record.

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Editor's Note: This article was recovered from The Record's online archive. There may be stylistic and visual errors that interrupt the reading experience, as well as missing photos. To read this article as it appeared in print, view our print archives.

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Editorials are written by members of The Record's Executive Board. They typically center on issues related to the school or student life on campus.

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