The international sanctions campaign that countries and companies have mounted against Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine is a remarkable achievement of multinational diplomacy and corporate responsibility. Much of the world has voluntarily terminated business with Russia, severing trade ties and financial relationships with the country and shocking the Kremlin by freezing many of its foreign assets. The speed, scope, and scale of these punitive economic measures and the nature of their target—one of the world’s largest and most important economies—are all without precedent.
But the effort to squeeze Moscow economically is just beginning, and it will become more difficult to sustain as time goes on, especially if the Kremlin’s opponents target sectors that bite more sharply into the global economy. Disruptions in energy, food, agricultural goods, and trade routes will generate friction within the sanctions coalition—which currently counts Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, the United States, and the European Union among its members—especially if the burdens seem unbalanced or unfair. Russia will seek to exacerbate that friction through retaliatory measures, as it did last week when it shut down a major oil pipeline that runs from Kazakhstan to the Black Sea, allegedly due to bad weather. The sanctions coalition will probably prove more durable than Russia would like, but these points of tension will make it more difficult to roll out big measures with regularity and will create pressure for strict enforcement to ensure that evasive behavior by China, India, and other countries doesn’t sap away the potency of the sanctions regime.
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