Even An End To Sanctions Wouldn’t Prevent Humanitarian Disaster In Russia

October 5, 2015
David Cameron, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, and other colleagues meet during the G7 meeting on March 24, 2014. Russia was disinvited from the meeting due to its actions in Ukraine| Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

Staunton, October 4 – Even if Vladimir Putin succeeded by some miracle in his current effort to get Western sanctions on his country for his aggression in Ukraine lifted, Konstantin Borovoy says, there are six reasons why even that would not prevent the looming humanitarian catastrophe in Russia.

The head of Russia’s Western Choice Party says that the first of these lies in the nature of Western sanctions themselves. “Their impact is more symbolic” than real because there are alternative channels for outside investment there and the market continues to work. The reason they appear to be working is that no one has any interest in investing in Russia now.

Second, he suggests, the counter-sanctions that the Putin regime introduced in response, are “more serious” in their impact than are Western sanctions. “The absence of competitive goods in the market is destroying competition” and leading to price increases that are putting many things out of reach of ordinary Russians.

Third, Borovoy points to the shift in Russia’s budgetary priorities. “The militarization of the budget and its stress on the force functions of the state are the result of all economic problems.” If the population were in fact satisfied with the current situation, such shifts would not be necessary.

Fourth, there is “the serious factor of corruption and protectionism.” The impact of these is “becoming ever more notable” in Russian government financing. Having to reduce pensions reflects “the ineffectiveness of the state itself,” especially given the way Putin’s elite enriched itself earlier.

Fifth, Borovoy points out, Russia lacks “strong independent business.” If such businesses existed, they could compensate for many of the shortcomings of the state, but the state has made their presence in Russia almost impossible and thus deprived Russia of an important motor of development.

And sixth, even if sanctions were lifted, the Russian opposition figure points out, that would do nothing to affect the current declines in prices for oil and other raw materials on which the Putin regime has relied in the past. Consequently, expecting a miracle recovery in Russia even if sanctions are lifted is an exercise in denial of the obvious.

Sanctions may have allowed Putin to shift the blame to the West in the eyes of many Russians – and even in the minds of some in the West itself – but the fundamental drivers of Russia’s economic malaise were in play before sanctions were introduced and will remain even if they are eventually lifted.