Western Sanctions against Russia Have Failed, Laments the City of London’s Economist

In an unsigned editorial titled “Are Sanctions on Russia Working?”, The Economist worries that the answer to that question is no. However, what the mouthpiece of the City of London proposes to do about it, is a recipe for a permanent global war in all domains, including economic and financial, not only against Russia but also China.

The editorial posted on Aug. 25 notes that in Ukraine itself, “a war of attrition is taking place along a thousand-kilometer front line of death and destruction”. But beyond it, “another struggle is raging — an economic conflict of a ferocity and scope not seen since the 1940s, as Western countries try to cripple Russia’s $1.8 trillion economy with a novel arsenal of sanctions. Worryingly, so far the sanctions war is not going as well as expected.”

The editorial board claims that behind the West’s “ambitious goal” is a new doctrine of Western power. Given the strategic implications of The Economist, it is worth quoting their point of view: “The unipolar moment of the 1990s, when America’s supremacy was uncontested, is long gone, and the West’s appetite to use military force has waned since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sanctions seemed to offer an answer by allowing the West to exert power through its control of the financial and technological networks at the heart of the 21st-century economy…. The trouble is that the knockout blow has not materialized.”

Indeed, Russia’s economy has not shrunk as much as was expected, and while it has found new markets for products it used to sell to Europe. Given the flaws of the sanctions weapon, among them the time lag and blow back, the editorial proposes to “discard any illusions that sanctions offer the West a cheap and asymmetric way to confront China, an even bigger autocracy. In order to deter or punish an invasion of Taiwan, the West could seize China’s $3 trillion of reserves and cut off its banks. But, as with Russia, China’s economy would be unlikely to collapse. And the government in Beijing could retaliate by, say, starving the West of electronics, batteries and pharmaceuticals, leaving Walmart’s shelves empty and triggering chaos. Given that more countries depend on China than America as their largest trading partner, enforcing a global embargo would be even harder than with Russia.”

Nonetheless, The Economist concludes, the “good news” is that that “democracies are adapting to this reality. Heavy weapons are pouring into Ukraine, NATO is fortifying Europe’s borders with Russia, and Europe is securing new sources of gas and speeding up the shift to clean energy. … Ukraine marks a new era of 21st-century conflict in which the military, technological and financial elements are intertwined. But it is not an era in which the West can assume it has pre-eminence. Nobody can counter aggression through dollars and semiconductors alone.”

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