Personal sanctions need to be rethought – The Moscow Times Russian Service

The European Union decides to extend sanctions against Russia. This is a good time to evaluate their effectiveness. Last month, Vladimir Putin addressed fugitive Russian businessmen and oligarchs extensively in his State of the Country address. Most of them are subject to Western sanctions, their assets are frozen. He sounded unusually nice.

“I want to be heard by those dealing with the wolf ways of the West: trying to run away with your arms outstretched, humiliating yourself, begging for money is pointless and, most importantly, useless, especially now that you understand well who you are dealing with. Now you should not cling to the past, try to sue, beg. We have to rebuild our lives and work, the more so that you are strong people – I talk to representatives of our business, I know many personally and for many years – who have gone through a difficult school of life.

Launch new projects, earn money, invest in Russia, invest in companies and jobs, help schools and universities, science and healthcare, culture and sports. In this way, you multiply your capital and gain recognition and gratitude of people for the next generation, and the state and society will certainly support you.

It was a clear call from the Russian oligarchs to return to his warship. Some have already done it. This is good news for Putin and bad news for everyone else.

About 1,400 people have been placed on sanctions lists since the beginning of the war. This number includes the Russian language deputies (450 Duma deputies and 170 senators), prominent members of the government, military, law enforcement officials and several oligarchs and propagandists.

Last month, in anniversary Putin’s full-blown aggression against Ukraine as part of the 10th sanctions package EUnegotiations over which lasted months, 87 names were added to the sanctions list. Most of them are mid-level officials from the occupied territories, cogs (but not the brains) of the Kremlin’s war crimes machine.

While the sanctions vary in detail, they have one thing in common: they have had no significant impact on Putin’s ability to continue his criminal war. They did not cause a split in the Russian elite and did not provoke desertions. Instead, they help consolidate support for the regime and encourage the return of people threatened by sanctions to Russia.

Because getting on the sanctions list is a one-way ticket. Anyone who has fallen into it knows that the only guaranteed way out is death.

As a result, sanctioned people feel they have no choice but to stay on board Putin’s ship, even if it sinks. The sanctions actually push people into Putin’s arms both figuratively (they feel their political destinies are now more closely intertwined than before) and in the most direct sense (those who lived in the West are often forced to return to Russia and their dependence on the Kremlin authorities is growing).

Needless to say, Russian oligarchs, officials and other former and current members of the Russian elite deserve no sympathy. Many of them are collectively responsible for getting Russia to where it is by 2023. They did not protest against the Putin regime and did not support those who did; went with the flow, gave the West the protection of their property rights, using Russia as a resource base, and thus made a huge contribution to transforming our country into a fascist-type totalitarian dictatorship.

But we must remember: sanctions are a tool, not an end in themselves.

The ultimate goal is not to punish some people – no matter how shameful and disgusting they may seem – but to weaken the Putin regime and drain it of resources.

Therefore, a reasonable policy of sanctions should not consolidate Putin’s circle, but rather isolate, weaken and make it toxic.

Therefore, a fundamentally different approach to each sanction is needed. This will entail a drastic expansion of sanctions lists, as well as providing people with a legally and politically acceptable way out.

While the exact conditions for lifting the restrictions have to be determined by the sanctioning countries, they should certainly include publicly severing ties with and condemning the Putin regime, and handing over a significant amount of their assets to Ukraine as compensation. This idea was first expressed at the meeting by Christia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister of Canada G7 last year and deserves support.

No one in Putin’s inner circle has reason to be grateful to him for the war. Putin’s friends lost billions; their usual way of life was destroyed. Their loyalty is held solely out of fear and, most importantly, for lack of an alternative. They can only bet on Putin: win with him or lose with him. The alternative could destabilize the regime.

And that’s what sanctions should be for. It will also address one of the main concerns we often hear from officials in Brussels. The more people on the sanctions list, the more potential disputes there are. If there was a sure-fire way to be struck off the list, some of those who might otherwise go to court would just use it.

The approach we propose is based on a real experiment. In April 2022, the Anti-Corruption Foundation, founded by the opposition leader Alexei Navalny, published a list of 6,000. people who should be punished. Since then, we regularly and transparently update and improve it. We add new people to our lists every two weeks. But we also struck them off our lists a few times because they condemned the war or left their positions in state-owned companies.

And although our sanctions, unlike those imposed by Western governments, have no legal effect and are intended to draw attention to and expose those we consider to be the perpetrators of Putin’s war, many of them have taken concrete action to cross themselves off our list by resigning or condemning war. . Imagine what would happen if Western governments followed suit.

Hundreds of people would run to the open exit and thus greatly weaken the Putin regime.

Currently, those on the list have no motivation to criticize Putin and his system. They only get problems in Russia for it.

But Putin is clearly concerned that big business might turn its back on him. He is trying to regain control over it, citing the current sanctions policy of Western countries.. Instead, they should finally make the sanctions work against him.

The material was first published in The Economist.


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