Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No. 8, August 2015.
By Olena Lennon and Alexander V. Laskin
Recent sanctions against Russia following its military incursion in Ukraine have not been effective in their short-term goal (Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine) and long-term goal (change of Russia’s regime). By applying Lektzian and Patterson’s theory of winners and losers of sanctions to the Russian case, we argue that the sanctions have not been effective for three reasons: the cost of sanctions is lower than the cost of conceding, the economic costs associated with sanctions are felt disproportionately across groups, and increased restrictions to international commerce have fueled nationalism and empowered Russia’s authoritarian regime. Our analysis of anti-Russian sanctions also points to a gap in Lektzian and Patterson’s theory, which differentiates between the varying types of countries subjected to sanctions, but overlooks the multiplicity of political agendas among sanctioning parties. The case of sanctions against Russia demonstrates a lack of unity and prevalence of conflicting agendas among the sanctioning parties, such as the E.U. countries, the United States, and Canada. Therefore, to better understand the mechanism of sanctions and predict their success or failure, we recommend further categorizing sanctioning countries based on their involvement with the target country in terms of trade, joint research projects, and political alliances. This differentiation will allow us to examine the interaction between the varying types of sanctioning countries and target countries to determine which combinations are likely to bring the desired outcome.