'The most severe sanctions ever imposed on a major economy' was how Western governments described sanctions on Russia. 'It would cripple Russia's war machine' and influence Putin ‘to end his brutal war' claimed the UK government at the time. In May 2022, Biden confidently asserted 'sanctions are devastating their economy'. But a year on and the rouble has risen against the dollar. Russian income from oil is substantially greater than before the war. While the impact on the West has been profound, inflation the highest for a generation and deepening recession. What's more there's evidence sanctions almost never work - just 7% of the time according to a recent study.
Must we reluctantly accept that economic threats are not a replacement for military strength? Are sanctions an empty threat and must we conclude that sanctions on China will not deter an attack on Taiwan, or in Afghanistan change Taliban policies? Is a new global arms race an inevitable outcome, or can we find an alternative diplomatic or economic solution to rogue and malign states bent on the use of force?
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