Staunton, November 10 – Speaking at the Valdai Club meeting this year, Vladimir Putin said that “trade and sanction wars are the reality of the contemporary global economy” and are “used among other things as instruments of unfair competition.” But he is wrong, Vladislav Inozemtsev says. “In the contemporary world, sanctions are not becoming the rule.”
By drawing this false conclusion, the Moscow economist continues, “Russian political analysts and government officials are deceiving themselves” into thinking that the corner into which they have driven themselves is somehow normal and that autarky is the best possible response.
Indeed, “by defining sanctions as ‘the most important instrument of international politics,’ we involuntarily side with those countries to which they are applied or have been applied and in this way accelerate our transformation into a global outcast,” Inozemtsev argues; and that in turn will lead to ever more inadequate choices and actions.
According to the Moscow economist, “the conceptual innovation of the Valdai Club is interesting above all because it marks a new stage in the mythologization of domestic political thought.” In the 2000’s, the Kremlin promoted the idea that Russia was so unique that it “could not be subordinate to general rules of any kind.”
Now, “we see an entirely different effort: to present an anomalous situation in which Russia finds itself as the new norm of the contemporary world.” Sanctions in this view are entirely normal as is the forcible seizure of territory from a neighboring state, but both notions are false. Neither is “the new normal.”
“Sanctions which Western countries have introduced against Russia unquestionably do not promote the development of [Russia’s] economy and limit the financial possibilities of the country,” but they are neither so severe that they will destroy it nor so typical that they should be accepted as what everyone does.
If that happens, Inozemtsev says, that will distort Russian thinking to the point where it will not be able to interact in any useful way with the contemporary world as it actually is. And he pointedly reminds that “economic realities change quite quickly, but phobias and myths at times last for decades.”
In support of his conclusions, the Moscow economist points out that there have always been conflicts in the international system and that they have always involved both geopolitical and economic components. Countries have always had allies and opponents, and thinking that this is something entirely new or that things have somehow significantly changed is “at a minimum an essential exaggeration.”
On the one hand, he says, economic differences have led to military actions, but “wars to acquire resources and territories remain in the past, and on this basis, Russia’s Crimean ‘adventure’ looks like a shocking exception. The loss of the economic foundation of war is a fundamental aspect of international politics of the 21st century.”
And on the other hand, “economic responses ever more often are given to political provocations, although there is nothing new in this.” The US introduced a Trading with the Enemy Act in 1917, and in the course of the 20th century, trade and financial sanctions became quite widespread,” affecting “more than 50 countries.”
“Today, their number is much less: there are only nine countries under sanctions, of which two that had been subject to complex sanctions earlier, [Cuba and Iran], will escape this regime in the current year,” Inozemtsev says.
“The sanctions applied in 2014 to Russia are objectively quite soft and will not influence the economy of the country in catastrophic ways, in contrast, for example, to the Serbian case.” In other words, he says, “the contemporary world, although it remains a world of political inequality and contradictions should in no way be called a world of lawlessness and sanctions.”