US and European sanctions may make Russia more self-sufficient

A Little Background on Economic Sanctions

Economic sanctions are used to weaken a country and force them into a weaker bargaining position, at least that's the intention of policy makers. However, the economic sanctions literature shows that economic sanctions may not cause the effect policy makers hope for. If economic sanctions are imposed on a country that has close relations with the US or Europe then the sanctions may cause sufficient economic damage and a change in political opinion that forces a country targeted with economic sanctions to capitulate. However, when economic sanctions are imposed on countries that are culturally different or have public opinion that paints the west in a bad light, economic sanctions are not only less likely to work, they may also lead to a country becoming more self-sufficient.

The Example of Iran and Improved Economic Self-Sufficiency

Iran is a great example of how economic sanctions can unintentionally make a country more self-sufficient. When the US was using economic sanctions to punish Iran for obtaining nuclear material and to bring Iran to the negotiating table, Iran developed sectors of their domestic economy, especially Iran’s defense industry, leading to a more dangerous Iran. The reason that Iran did this is due to the importance of trade. When extensive economic sanctions are used on a country these trade relationships are broken off, forcing a country to somehow get the benefits that trade relationships provided in another way. This other way is by switching to domestic production and increasing and improving the efficiency of the country’s domestic industries.

Economic Sanctions and Russia

Currently, the sanctions placed on Russia are not incredibly strong, this is probably due to Europe being hesitant to place sanctions on a country that exports so much gas to their continent. But the US and Europe must remember the ramifications that may happen if more extensive sanctions are placed on Russia. The officials of countries in both Europe and North America seem to think that if a country does an act that is deemed wrong by the west then economic sanctions should nearly always be a response. But economic sanctions are much more complex than this. If the country being targeted by economic sanctions is not closely integrated with the country imposing the sanctions, then the economic sanctions will likely not be effective. Additionally, if extensive economic sanctions are placed on a country for years on end then that country may resort to developing their domestic industries, turning a weak enemy into a stronger and more formidable foe with a more self-sufficient economy.

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