The threat of sanctions from the United States, Europe, and their allies against Russia failed to deter the superpower from invading Ukraine, yet they remain one of the most important tools to prevent armed escalation. How effective have sanctions been in hindering Russian military operations, or in punishing Putin and his supporters? CNAS experts are sharpening the conversation around how targeted economic statecraft can, or cannot be, used against adversaries. Continue reading this edition of Sharper to explore their ideas and recommendations.
Sanctions by the Numbers: 2021 Year in Review
The first year of President Joe Biden’s administration witnessed major developments in U.S. sanctions strategy, including a general review of all sanctions programs under the auspices of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. This edition of Sanctions by the Numbers provides a snapshot of overall sanctioning trends, an overview of the most heavily used country-specific and thematic sanctions programs, including Russia before their invasion of Ukraine, and the global distribution of sanctions designations during the first year of the Biden administration.
Sanctions and Export Controls Explained: What's Going On with Russia
The United States and its allies have released an unprecedented and sweeping set of sanctions and export controls in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. On Wednesday, March 2, CNAS hosted a panel to discuss what these new sanctions and export controls mean, how they will impact the Russian and global economies, and what to expect next in the economic domain from the United States and allies. The panel also examined how sanctions and export controls will be enforced and whether China can act as a spoiler to the strong, coordinated effort from the allies.
The New Russia Export Controls
The export controls from the U.S. government are designed to allow consumer goods to flow to Russia and Belarus, while cutting off the governments from any western technology that could support their militaries and impeding Russia’s long-term ability to produce energy. Emily Kilcrease, Senior Fellow and Director of the Economics, Energy, and Security program at the Center for a New American Security weighs in with expert commentary and analysis of the new export controls against Russia and Belarus in response to the further invasion of Ukraine, followed by in-line notes on the new rules from the White House and Department of Commerce.
Toward a New Transatlantic Approach to Russia Sanctions
The era of working toward a stable and predictable relationship with Russia is over for now. The U.S. will need a new, more proactive approach—one in which sanctions will be a tool (among many) that Washington should use to deter future Russian attacks on liberal democracies and disrupt Russia’s destabilizing actions. Weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the CNAS Transatlantic Forum on Russia held a series of dialogues with leading experts from both sides of the Atlantic that informed this brief.
Time for Even Tougher Sanctions on Russia
"The economic sanctions that the West has imposed on Russia have been unprecedented in their speed, scale, and scope," write Edward Fishman and Chris Miller in Foreign Affairs. "Within just a week of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine in February, the United States and its allies prohibited their people and companies from doing business with the Central Bank of Russia, the largest entity targeted since U.S. sanctions against Japan before Pearl Harbor. They also levied an array of other penalties, including sanctions on state-owned Russian banks and controls on critical technology exports to Russia. By any measure, the West delivered on the “swift and severe consequences” that U.S. President Joe Biden had threatened before the invasion. But these sanctions are not yet comprehensive, nor are they imposing enough economic costs to have any hope of changing Russia’s short-term calculus."
Russia’s Economy Has Adjusted to Sanctions. That Doesn’t Mean Moscow Is Winning the Financial War.
"There have been signs over the past several days that Russia’s economy is adapting to the harsh economic sanctions imposed on it in response to the invasion of Ukraine. The ruble has rebounded. The extreme stress on the domestic banking sector has moderated," observes Rachel Ziemba in Barron's. "The Russian government continues to make debt payments and sell most of its oil. And on Friday, the central bank cut its benchmark interest rate, after having doubled it in the immediate wake of the sanctions. All this activity is partly a reflection of the technocratic skill of the officials in charge of Russian economic policy, the persistence of energy revenues (Russia’s most important revenue source), and a kind of broad adaptation to sanctions that other states in comparable situations have experienced, admittedly at a cost to economic well-being. What these adjustments are not, however, are obvious signs that the U.S. and its allies are losing the economic war against Russia. At least not yet. Rather, they are a reminder that the effort to impose economic costs on Russia is a long game aimed to degrade its capacity to continue the conflict and its future prospects."
In the News
Featuring commentary and analysis by Emily Kilcrease, Martijn Rasser, Jason Bartlett, Edward Fishman, Rachel Ziemba and Elina Ribakova.
About the Sharper Series
The CNAS Sharper series features curated analysis and commentary from CNAS experts on the most critical challenges in U.S. foreign policy. From the future of America's relationship with China to the state of U.S. sanctions policy and more, each collection draws on the reports, interviews, and other commentaries produced by experts across the Center to explore how America can strengthen its competitive edge.
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