Are Western sanctions enough to stop Russia's Ukraine war? - LEVENT YILMAZ

Are Western sanctions enough to stop Russia's Ukraine war?

One of the most talked-about issues since the start of the Russia-Ukraine War is the sanctions imposed by the Western-led alliance against Moscow. A new round of additional sanctions was announced after the NATO and EU Leaders’ summits, which lasted for two days, so let’s take a closer look at these sanctions and, perhaps most importantly try to answer the million-dollar question: will they be enough to stop the war?


WHAT’S THE GOAL OF SANCTIONS?


The main objective of sanctions, economic or otherwise, is to make the sanctioned country reverse an action or stance. However, the number of countries that have altered their behaviors and actions despite being sanctioned is almost non-existent. When we look at the examples of Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela in the past, neither regime change nor a significant shift in behavior has been observed in these countries. Moreover, for sanctions to be effective, they must be proactive rather than reactive.


WHY WASN’T THE ENERGY SECTOR INCLUDED IN SANCTIONS?


Russia is an important energy supplier for countries in Continental Europe. According to 2021 data, the share of Russia in the total natural gas imports of European countries stands at 45%. 


This percentage indicates a volume of 155 billion cubic meters. However, the dependence of European countries on Russia for natural gas is not homogeneous. For example, Finland, Estonia, N. Macedonia, and Bulgaria wholly depend on Russia completely for their energy, while countries such as Germany, Italy, and France get  54%, 33%, and 8% of their energy from Russia respectively. 


This unequal distribution is the main reason why there is no unanimous decision on energy sanctions and the European Union plays the three monkeys on this issue. It’s for this specific reason that, just before both summits, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hurriedly said, "An immediate energy ban on Russia could trigger a recession in Europe." 


WHY WAS 24-25 MARCH IMPORTANT?

Over the past two days, we have followed both the NATO and EU Leaders' summits. Before both summits, the perception was created that new sanctions against Russia would be put into effect and that a serious energy sanction might be on the table this time. Of course, those who closely follow the energy sector knew that this possibility was rather slim. That's what happened.


WILL THERE BE SANCTIONS ON FRENCH TOTAL?


I can already tell you’re wondering what does French Totalenergies have to do with sanctions on Russia? As I've said before, let me refresh your memories: French TotalEnergies owns 19.4% of Novatek, Russia's second-largest gas exporter after Gazprom. Again, TotalEnergies has the right to own 10-15% of all NOVATEK LNG projects to be implemented in the future on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas in Russia. 


Moreover, TotalEnergies also owns a 10% stake in the company "Arctic Transshipment", which manufactures the world's largest LNG vessels in Russia's Murmansk and Kamchatka regions. Thus, should energy sanctions be imposed on Russia, we mustn’t forget the repercussions that will be felt by the French.


KEEPING UP APPEARANCES!


The Western-led alliance, which has pretended to stand behind Ukraine since the war began, excitedly imposed sanctions on Russia in many areas and even removed some Russian banks from the SWIFT system. However, we have yet to see the same excitement when it comes to energy and banks that pay for energy imports from Russia that are directly linked to their own narrow interests. In other words, this insincere Western attitude that dragged Ukraine into the war is also apparent in the sanctions imposed on Russia. Moreover, the Western alliance knows better than anyone that these sanctions will not result in Russia changing its behavior!


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