The Iran nuclear deal is held up as the new model for economic sanctions. Before that, Libya’s dismantling of its nuclear program in 2003 was seen as a key success. Sanctions can be slow to take effect, but the idea is to use a (non-military) combination of carrot and stick to encourage a policy re-think. Essentially, it’s the international equivalent of the ‘naughty corner’.

But are sanctions working against Russia? The EU, along with the US and Canada, first introduced targeted sanctions against Russia in March 2014 in the wake of the Crimea crisis. Further rounds of sanctions followed, including in July 2014 when entire sectors of Russia’s economy were targeted, from the financial sector to defence and resource extraction industries.

Nobody doubts that the Russian economy has suffered; since 2014 the ruble has collapsed, investment has dried up, and consumer prices have ballooned. However, it’s debatable how much of that is because of sanctions and how much because of plummeting global oil prices. Likewise, have we really seen a major change in policy from the Kremlin? Yet there is already talk of ending the sanctions regime.

Not everybody is so convinced that sanctions against Russia have been having an effect. We had a comment sent in from Alkis, who is worried that sanctions are doing nothing but harming the already fragile European economy.

To get a response, we put Alkis’ comment to Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the President of Estonia. As head of state of a small country bordering Russia, did he think that Western sanctions against his neighbour were having an impact?

To get another reaction, we put the same comment to Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, a former NATO Secretary General (2004-2009). What would he say to Alkis?

We also had a comment sent in from Yuri, who was worried that sanctions would not discourage Russian aggression. But would Russia really dare to try the tactics it used in Ukraine on EU Member States such as Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia?

To get a response, we asked Jaap de Hoop Scheffer to comment:

Finally, we also put the same question to President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. What would he say?

Want to know more about the Ukraine / Russia crisis? We’ve put together a timeline of events below (click to see a larger image):

Are EU-US sanctions against Russia working? Do you think Russia would dare to try the tactics it used in Ukraine on EU Member States such as Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Chris JL
The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

69 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

    • avatar
      Slava Ukraine

      Your wrong,they Should remain as long as outlet is the aggressor.

    • avatar
      Slava Ukraine

      The E.U does not want to be friends with a country who attacks and steals from it’s Brothers.

    • avatar

      Well said

  1. avatar
    Imants Gross

    Obviously the sanctions are working, but it’s a long term project. Need to be suported by strong diplomtic activity and military suport to Ukraine. Hard talk is a language understood by russians.

  2. avatar
    Mantas Mac

    Time goes fast. Everybody forgot annexation of Crimea, war in Ukraine, killed civilians and kids, MH17, sumbarines in Baltic Sea and etc.
    Welcome to realpolitik. Putin’s strategy is working well.

    • avatar
      Adrian Limbidis

      The WEST is willing to AGAIN sell the EAST to Russia for COMFORT and MONEY.

      Just like in 1945…

    • avatar
      Adrian Limbidis

      Interesting, shall we ask Ukraine?

    • avatar
      John Year

      Sorry – Russia behaves like the enemy. In trying to re-establish USSR (so the West respects or at least fears it) Russia is reverting to type and in the West we hate bullies. Putin IS popular but being popular doesn’t mean he is doing the right things.

  3. avatar

    Are Western sanctions against Russia working?

    Hope so, otherwise it will be war.

  4. avatar

    No, I think that sanctions are counterproductive and didn’t help solve any problem with Ukraine. The sanctions push Russians working together with China, western goods were mostly replaced by russianś home productions and goods from other Countries. The EU also loses possibility cultivation of Russia’s policy through tight relations.

  5. avatar
    Harry Hudson

    I believe and always have that the sanctions are not working as well as those in power in the west think. Russians are very determined people and will make do with what they have it has been their life for a very long time .Yes they have had a period of good living by their own standards but the west is naive if it thinks it can really hurt the Russians In the end you might , and i think you are cutting your nose of the spit your face it is idiotic, and time to end it because from My experience here in eastern europe it is not having the effect the west thought it would, not even close

  6. avatar
    Ilyass Naqar

    Sanctions against Russia is not the right solution, cooperation with Russia is the solution to all the security problems in Europe.

    • avatar
      Slava Ukraine

      Russia is the cause of most all security problems in Europe. Stop the Killing and stealing.

  7. avatar
    Tomasz Klimek

    Low oil price is enough. Russians are unable to buy any Western product. Even made in China are now too expensive.

  8. avatar
    Tomas Drugda

    What I am wondering about is: the problem escalating in MidEast, This problem in Europe is MidEast sourced bu Nato is forcing & concentrating trups into the Europe not into the MidEast… Thoughts ?!?

    • avatar
      Slava Ukraine

      You watch RT? Daa Comrade.

  9. avatar
    Adrian Limbidis

    SERBIAN and RUSSIAN trolls all over this comment section.

    Sanctions ARE working the russian economy is going down the toilet and sanctions NEED TO BE MADE HARSHER not WEAKER.
    Russia has – remember – ATTACKED A NEUTRAL COUNTRY whose sovereignty IT swore to protect !

    The EU is SELLING UKRAINE to the russians for MONEY !
    You, in the comment section here who agree with “making nice with Putin”, make me sick of being european !

    • avatar
      Slava Ukraine

      Very well said Adrian.

  10. avatar
    Maia Alexandrova

    Russians are proud people, they will not be broken with material deprivation (which they are used to anyway), it will only make them more resolved to succeed on their own, to find an alternative path. Sanctions only mean one door closed, but there are many others open. They will find their way, but Europe will be suffering. Russia is by no means isolated, so all policies with this purpose in mind have failed.

    • avatar

      Why is Russia then one of the main countries of origin of refugees?

  11. avatar
    Constantin Rusu

    All sanctions against Rusia are a big error; Russia is a big power and only mutual agreements between the great powers can solve such problems.

  12. avatar
    Stefano Piccini

    until germany continue to buy russian gas,financing the putin wars against Ukraine and Syria with the gas money……….the western sanctions to russia shall never work………..stop buying russian gas and the peace shall arrive immediatly

    • avatar
      Slava Ukraine

      I agree,Stop buying Russian oil and gas. They only use the money to bully smaller nations.

  13. avatar
    Stefano Piccini

    until germany continue to buy russian gas,financing the putin wars against Ukraine and Syria with the gas money……….the western sanctions to russia shall never work………..stop buying russian gas and the peace shall arrive immediatly

    • avatar

      Agree with this comment.

  14. avatar
    Alexandra Taquis De Valetopulos

    They should have stopped this nonsense with the sanctions..Russia is not the enemy… If Europeans were smart enough they would have realized this and that having Russia on their side is the wise thing to do.

    • avatar
      Adrian Limbidis

      We saw “dialogue” with Crimea annexed and half of Ukraine under fire.

      We TRIED “dialogue” and we hit a brick wall !

  15. avatar
    Brian Hancock

    All the sanctions have done is ruin the exports to Russia from Eurpoe…… who pushed for the sanctions…. fucking Obama !!!!

  16. avatar
    Dimitris Orfanoudis

    Sanctions are not working the only sanctions made is to increase the cold war climate.. May be Russia is not in EU but is in Europe and is christian, In nowadays we are facing more threats from various funtamedalist centers EU and Russia must stand united to face the threats together…

  17. avatar
    Denny Quartieri

    No they aren’t but we need to have 3 Bln sanctions from Italy. Reached the level we quit these poor mads who blame Putin allowing Hollande to kill innocent babies in Siryan Hospitals.

  18. avatar
    Γεώργιος Μίχας

    Who is more aggresive? Putin or the West block? Who invaded and totally destroyed Iraq, with mock evidence? Not Putin…. Who has supported Taliban? Not Putin…. Who destroyed Libya? Not Putin…. Who is giving weapons to ISIS? Not Putin… Who interfered without any legalization and created the Syrian tragedy? Not Putin…. and if we go a little further to the past, who made coup against the FIRST democratically elected government in Middle East and brought tyranny to Iran? yes, USA…

    • avatar

      Who invaded Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine though Georgios? I think you are being one-sided.

  19. avatar
    Peter Castermans

    1. Ukraine is’nt the EU, The Krim isn’t our problem.
    2. These sanctions hurt also the European economy.
    3. We need Europe in the war against IS.

    • avatar
      Adrian Limbidis

      Are Poland and Romania in “your Europe” ?
      Because Putin is eyeing them too.
      Are the BALTICS in “your Europe” ?

      Easy to talk smack when you’re on the other side of the continent !
      COWARD !

  20. avatar
    Theodoros N Pitikaris

    not Really, the sanctions was a necessary step back then but now we are in need of a more innovated way that we allow us to heal the wounds and to promote unity in fighting the terrorism

    • avatar

      More than the Greek Prime Minister, Stathis?

  21. avatar
    JP Faure

    These sanctions had no impact. Or rather they had an impact on our economy. Again, the unprofessional US approach that we Europeans follow blindly.

  22. avatar
    Dimitris Sideris

    Since the 1st WW no major threat can be dealt with by Europe alone without USA and Russia. Commumism has never been a real threat, since the opposition between western world and Russia continued after the fall of communism. The sanctions against Russia had an impact on both Russia and Europe. It is (was) a nonsense.

  23. avatar

    Right now both Europe and Russia have a common enemy , well also China have this common enemy also, this enemy is radical Islam , let’s all work together Europe,Russia and China as a team and defeat this threat.

    • avatar
      Adrian Limbidis

      And sell Ukraine down the river for our own security?

  24. avatar

    Sanctions hurt the EU economy more in the long term than it has hurt Russia, as Russia has just signed trade agreements with other nations. Once these sanctions are lifted, I wonder if Russia will be bothered to trade with us when he has new trading partners.

    As with many of the above comments, it would make a very refreshing change if the EU stopped dong what the US wants, as it is clear that this is only serving to stifle the EU and play right into the plans of the US.

    Like it or not Putin is a much better chess player than the US puppet masters can ever be. Russia is part of Europe not the US and time the EU realised this, and stopped crippling the countries closer to Russia, that had good trade agreements with them, prior to the US messing up yet again.

  25. avatar

    What sanctions? ;) Let’s see…

    The US who forced the EU to impose sanctions doesn’t care one way or another, a few millions here and there… loose change. In fact the US is still buying rockets from Russia to keep their space program alive whereas Russia stopped buying meat from US farmers.

    The European are suffering more than the Russians. I am sure a Moscovite can survive without Camembert… on the other hand, according to a recent Austrian study “Europe stands to lose a total of €100bn from its economy due to the trade sanctions it has placed on Russia, putting around two million jobs across members states at risk”.

    In the meantime, Russia is diverting to alternative markets in Asia, and China in particular, and Latin America (instead of American beef they can get Brazilian or Argentinian, much better by the way!).

    The day Europe removes it’s sanctions, those EU markets will not come back, they are gone for good. The longer the EU keeps the sanctions the worse it will get for them. In the meantime, the Russians are learning to become more independent and self supporting. France cancelled the two Mistral sales to Russia, Russia got it’s money back and is building better ships in Russia. Consequence, workers in the French DCNS shipyard are now unemployed whereas their Russian counterparts are guaranteed employment for many years to come. The irony of it all is that, to reduce the heavy maintenance costs of the idle ships, France is now forced to sell the Mistrals at a discounted price to Egypt, Russia’s main ally in the Middle East :)

    And look where Ukraine is today… a country at the edge of total collapse. But who cares? Certainly not it’s American and EU friends. They are now more worried about … Estonia :)

    Don’t you love those sanctions :)

    • avatar
      Slava Ukraine

      No one loves sanctions,but we love peace,and we love our children,and are willing to die for them. You sound like all you care about is money,Shame be upon you.

  26. avatar

    Ok, so this is nothing personal but from the US point of view Russia is a place where the govt uses propaganda to control the population (please excuse my political incorrectness) but from the US point of view sanctions are really the only solution I realize that they hurt the Russian people and I am very sorry for that yes we (the US) have done some dumbass things and again excuse my political incorrectness again but bush invaded Iran for really no reason (oil I guess) but the US has always been very all or none with action and even though I have a huge amount of sympathy for the Russia people from a political point of view this tactic is very effective and has been employed sence the Middle Ages

  27. avatar
    Slava Ukraine

    Most of the Comment’s on this thread are written by Russian pretending to be Westerners.Do not fall for their propaganda. Ukraine is struggling for it’s very existence. All it’s ever wanted is to be free. It wants closer ties with the West.Please support a free and just Ukraine,Freedom is worth it.

  28. avatar
    David - American/Russian

    From my point of view – though I’m also not on the lower end of the food chain like most Russians living in the numerous smaller villages – they (i.e. the sanctions) aren’t doing that much damage to us here in Moscow. I’d say the issues with oil prices causing the devaluation of the ruble caused problems with import costs, but that’s about it.

    I’d say that the only ones being hurt by Russian sanctions are the businesses (on both sides) who are losing millions without Russian import/export business.

    As for the question placed, “Would Russia dare to try the tactics it used in Ukraine on EU Member States such as Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia?”…to me, it’s a ludicrous question created by the US traitor, Obama, designed to mark Putin/Russia as the bad guy. Putin could care less about those little countries. The ONLY reason Crimea was taken back – i.e. indian gave – was as a tactical move against the US/Obama’s plan to have the coup government (he supported) to kick the Russian military off the peninsula. And you can bet that WAS his plan. It failed!…thank God, or we’d likely be on the brim of WWIII. Putin foresaw this plan and beat Obama to the punch.

    Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE my countrymen and country. My government, however, is a piece of evil crap. Hopefully, Trump will win and reverse all of the damage Obama caused. I can only pray this will be so.

    As for a free Ukraine, I hope you get it (under a Nazi regime), but not with Crimea; wherein, the majority of the population is Russian. And should Killary win, Ukraine would be better off NOT to have closer ties with the West.

  29. avatar

    Russia is protecting it’s national interest like any other independent country would do.Ukraine should be happy for the free lands Russia has given to them during the empire.Crimea wanted to be with Russia.

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