Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Out of the game

Recently, the magazine Foreign Affairs published 2 seemingly contradicting articles: Why New Russia Sanctions Won’t Change Moscow’s Behavior, and How to Stand Up to the Kremlin. Latter essay was co-written by Joe Biden, Obama‘s Vice President. Both are interesting reads.

From a strictly technical perspective, I disagree with the 1st article. In my view, sanctions on Russia did change Moscow’s behaviour – for the worse. Following the so-called Magnitsky Act (2012), Russian interference in Europe and USA has significantly increased (eg, Brexit, Catalonia, Crimea, France, Germany, Netherlands, USA).

Robert Mueller‘s investigation of the Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential elections is revealing that this interference was about removing the sanctions against Russia (eg, BBCNYT). A few days ago, a Russian hacker – in a Russian court – acknowledged that Russian intelligence officials instructed this interference (eg, BITimes). Clearly, sanctions changed Moscow’s behaviour.

The sanctions aim to hurt a small group of people who are closely related to the Russian President. The severity of the Russian interference is probably indicative of how much these sanctions hurt. Russian oligarchs have lost billions due to the international sanctions following the 2014 Russian annexation of the Crimea (eg, CNN). Kleptocrats are hurt in their wallets.

For some, it’s tempting not to implement sanctions for various reasons: (i) the population will be hurt more than their leaders, (ii) sanctions do not result in desired behavioural change, (iii) sanctions will worsen a nation’s behaviour (eg, North Korea), (iv) sanctions are seldom universal, and (v) evading sanctions is often profitable (eg, Turkey and Iranian oil).

For some, it’s tempting to keep increasing the volume of sanctions, even if they do not result in a desired behaviour change of a reluctant regime (eg, US vs North Korea).

Behavioural change is a result of Faith, (new) Beliefs, and Willpower (my blogs). For a single human being, the process of Change will take (lots of) time. A small group of (very) powerful people is unlikely to change. Also see my 2016 blogs: The more we have, the more we fight Change, and The less you have, the more you embrace Change

The fact that remedial action only involves a small group of Russian people allows for a tailored approach. A recent example might (!) be the French arrest of a Russian oligarch (eg, FT, Guardian, VOA). Cutting off Hydra‘s heads might be a more successful strategy than broad sanctions. Empty chairs may create more fear than losing money while retaining freedom (eg, CNBC).

This approach would also make sense as Russian interference equals state-terrorism. Terrorists are taken out of the game, one by one.

Out of the Game (2012) by Rufus Wainwright – artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


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