Detroit Today: How effective have economic sanctions against Russia been?

While sanctions have had a negative effect on Russia’s economy, President Putin shows no sign of slowing his war effort in Ukraine.

Demonstration against Russian invasion of Ukraine in Stokholm, February 2022.

Demonstration against Russian invasion of Ukraine in Stokholm, February 2022.

When Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, one of the first pleas from President Vladimir Zelenskyy to President Joe Biden was for the West to “close the skies” over his country by creating a “no-fly zone” enforced by NATO, Europe and the U.S. Biden refused Zelenskyy’s request, noting the risk of American and Russian forces interacting could create a heightened chance of direct conflict, and ultimately war with Russia.

Instead, a tool the U.S. and other western nations opted to use even before the 2022 invasion began was economic sanctions.

But what exactly are economic sanctions and how effective have they been in this conflict?

Mercatus Center senior research fellow Christine McDaniel and John Hopkins fellow Simon Constable joined Stephen Henderson on Detroit Today to discuss the impact of economic sanctions against Russia.

Listen: Why economic sanctions became a tool in foreign policy


Christine McDaniel is a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center. Her research focuses on international trade, globalization, and intellectual property rights. She is also the author of the piece “Economic Sanctions as a Foreign Policy Instrument: The Case of Russia.” She says economic sanctions are one tool in a bigger toolbox that can disable Putin’s ability to continue with the status quo during the war.

“The financial flows to Russia have dried up. Russia’s technology sectors have been hit by loss of imports, (their) export-heavy sectors have suffered, and hundreds of foreign companies have left,” says McDaniel.

Simon Constable is a fellow at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health and the Study of Business Enterprise, as well as a contributor for the Wall Street Journal. In Constable’s piece for Time entitled “Why Sanctions on Russia Won’t Work,” he argues sanctions can backfire by uniting the sanctioned country against its sanctioning enemy.

“If the goal is to stop the Kremlin from doing anything in Ukraine, then it clearly hasn’t happened. In fact, the opposite has happened,” says Constable. “What tends to happen is that when a country gets sanctioned, as opposed to individuals, the entire country tends to hunker down and pull together against the enemy.”

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