University of Birmingham: Coordinated international approach to sanctions required in response to Russian-Ukraine war

Politics and the media are all about the current moment, or the distractions of the immediate rather than the development of long-term strategy. In the UK, the current political focus in on inflation and the possibilities of recession. In Russia, the focus is on Putin’s fixation with trying to annex Ukraine whilst China continues to be distracted by COVID-19. It is important for every country to stand back from the distractions of the immediate to develop a longer-term vision and associated strategy.

For Europe, there are two primary challenges. First, is the need to develop an approach that will enhance European economic security, and this includes energy and food security as well as ensuring access to the materials and resources required to support everyday living. This must be a critical mid-term objective based on developing solutions to any supply-side weaknesses with a particular focus on ensuring that no European country is over dependent on another country. The secret is in ensuring sufficient local provision combined with diversity of supply. Germany permitted itself to become too over-dependent on Russia as an energy provider. All countries must balance the benefits that come from globalisation with a concern with national economic security. The second, is the Russian-Ukraine war.

The Russian-Ukraine war continues to highlight major weaknesses in the Russian economy and military. Russia failed to develop a diversified economy as it focussed on energy exports and investments in high-profile politically led projects including the development of hypersonic missiles. For Russia, the current primary challenge is to develop a solution that enables President Putin to declare some type of victorious outcome of his special military operation in Ukraine. Nevertheless, any Russian victory must be coupled with significant long-term economic and political consequences for Russia.

It is possible to argue that the most important challenge facing the free nations of the world is to develop a co-ordinated approach to imposing all types of sanctions that would discourage military aggression. Currently, sanctions have been imposed on Russia in an uncoordinated manner. This is unfortunate.”
John R. Bryson, Professor of Enterprise and Economic Geography, Birmingham Business School
It is possible to argue that the most important challenge facing the free nations of the world is to develop a co-ordinated approach to imposing all types of sanctions that would discourage military aggression. Currently, sanctions have been imposed on Russia in an uncoordinated manner. This is unfortunate.

Global leadership is required to establish an international sanctions coordinating body that would oversee the development, implementation, and monitoring of an approach to sanctions that would be imposed on any country that engages in activities that are counter to international law. The key is to develop a coordinated approach that would function as a deterrent. What is required is a proactive rather than reactive approach to deploying sanctions. This coordinated approach should be so effective as a deterrent that the imposition of sanctions becomes something that is extremely rare.

There are different views regarding the possible outcome of the Russian-Ukraine war. Sabina Higgins, the wife of Ireland’s president, published a letter in The Irish Times in July 2022 that argued that President Putin and President Zelensky should agree to a ceasefire and negotiations. The problem with this approach is that it fails to acknowledge that Russia is the aggressor rather than Ukraine. Russia tries to continually distort the narratives that are constructed around its illegal war. Nevertheless, for the Russian-Ukraine war it must always be remembered that every death, and refugee that has been forced to relocate, is a direct consequence of Russia’s decision to instigate an illegal ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine. And this means every death directly and indirectly linked to Russia’s invasion. The indirect include deaths linked to people experiencing energy or food poverty and the indirect must also include the impacts of forced migration on the life changes of refugees.

Sanctions are important and must be coordinated and come with a long-term strategy that is clearly articulated. Negotiations might eventually occur between Russia and Ukraine, and these might agree to the annexation of some Ukrainian territory by Russia. Such an agreement would be completely unacceptable.

The only way sanctions will act as a deterrent is an international agreement that clearly states that sanctions will only be removed once Russia withdraws from Ukrainian territory with the minimum response being a return to the position before the war commenced. My own view is that this withdrawal should include the return of the Crimean Peninsula to Ukraine combined with financial reparation substantially in excess of the direct costs experienced by Ukraine as a consequence of Russia’s illegal invasion.

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