May 18, 2024

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Amid sanctions, Moscow has “strengthened the recession of its economy and its financial system.”

The interview took place on Wednesday, February 23, the day before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Ahead of the Russian offensive against Ukraine on Thursday, February 24, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union, Japan and Canada announced a series of sanctions against Moscow. Westerners hope to put pressure on Russia, which on Monday recognized the independence of pro-Russian separatists in Lugansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

But what weight do these sanctions have against the Russian giants? To find out, FrancesInfo interviewed David Tertri, a geologist and co-researcher at the Europs-Eurasia Research Center for National Oriental Languages ​​and Civilizations (ENALCO) (Cree). He is a teacher Russia – return to powerReleased in 2021.

FranceInfo: Why sanctions against Russia?

David Territory: It is a political act with primarily economic consequences. Sanctions signify Western opposition to Russian methods, especially Moscow recognizing the independence of the separatist republics of the Donbass.

They also make it possible to stop there without interfering at the military level. Europeans and Americans made it clear that they would not send soldiers. There are arms sales and distributions, but no Western intervention.

Other coercive measures would be difficult to implement because confronting the West is still the world’s second nuclear power.

Are these punishments unprecedented?

No, the West continues to issue sanctions against Russia. The first sanctions were announced at the beginning of the 2014 Ukrainian crisis. The European Union has banned the export of weapons and certain technologies to Russia, barred Russian officials from entering the border and froze assets.

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On the American side, the sanctions machine continues to be strengthened with tougher and broader measures than the Europeans. In 2017, the United States approved states that import Russian weapons, while Russia is the world’s second-largest arms exporter.

Can they be effective? Will they really do “too badly” as promised by Joseph Borel, the head of EU diplomacy?

It represents a form of economic and economic isolation of Russia. But these sanctions are bearable for the Russian economy. Especially since the beginning of the crisis, the Russian government has strengthened the recession of its economy and its financial system through significant concrete measures.

For example, in the banking sector, at the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, the United States allowed Rosia Bank to make MasterCard and Visa cards unusable. The move could be generalized: overnight Russians can no longer use credit cards. Russia responded by creating a system that would allow these cards to operate on Russian territory despite restrictions.

Similarly, Russia has developed its own bank card MIR. Nearly 90% of Russians have one, especially as the government pays social benefits and the salaries of civil servants. So the country will no longer depend on Western technologies or media.

The last example in the financial sector was the threat to disconnect Russia from the Swift financial news organization. The latter is used for international banking transactions by all banks, but also nationally. Western nations have already twice imposed sanctions on Iran. Using it against Russia would be a big blow because import-export operations are linked to this system. But Russia has developed its own independent postal system.

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Did Russia expect these sanctions differently?

Yes, by accumulating financial resources and diversifying them. The Russian central bank holds the equivalent of $ 600 billion … The bulk of the reserves have been converted into gold, euros and yuan in anticipation of US sanctions.

In this context, do restrictions really have a deterrent effect?

We really need to ask ourselves the question of the effectiveness of this licensing policy. They do not appear to have a major impact on Russia’s foreign policy. Moreover, in Cuba or Iran, we find that permitting policies only complicate existing political regimes. We must ask ourselves: Are the problems taken for granted? Why did you promise Ukraine to enter NATO, when it was a case in point for the Russian elite? Have Europeans tried to offer integration programs that include Russia? Is it conceivable that a country like Russia would be ruined by these sanctions? Are less affluent countries living under sanctions for decades?

With 500 French companies and 160,000 employees, France is the leading foreign employer in Russia. Will the sanctions announced by the West affect the French economy?

The sanctions would obviously be detrimental to French interests. Many investors and companies are located in Russia, especially in the distribution (Auchan, Decathlon …), automotive sector (Renault Russian manufacturer Lada), hydrocarbons (invests heavily in total liquefied natural gas). So anything that interferes with financial transactions with Russia is not in France’s favor.

But it should be emphasized that sanctions do not directly target these sectors. This is the difficulty: many European interests are linked to Russia. How to let Russia in without hurting France and the EU too much?

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What other obstacles can be taken?

Hard to say. Interests vary drastically. Russia is America’s smallest economic partner. The sanctions they impose will have an indirect impact on the prices of raw materials and hydrocarbons, and therefore on inflation, but will not have a strong direct impact.

This is against Europe. Apart from Switzerland, Russia is the third largest economic partner after China and the United States. So any permit will inevitably have a cost to the European economy, which will outweigh its impact on the US economy.