Sanctions are the wrong way to go

The Russian invasion of Crimea has been a news story that is almost impossible to ignore. On Monday the U.S. and Eurpean Union announced that they would be sanctioning Russia as a response to these invasions. These sanctions will not be effective and will wind up just hurting regular Russian citizens more than actually hurting the people responsible for the invasion.

For context, economic sanctions are where governments get together and decide to limit types of trade and travel into and from another country. The regular sanctions are called economic sanctions and the sanctions on top officials are called smart sanctions.

So, the EU and U.S. have banded together and decided to limit the travel of top officials in the Russian and former Ukrainian government and to freeze their assets. They are also limiting types of trades to Russia in response. The goal is to make the economy so bad for the Russians that they have to change policy.

The problem, however, is that economic sanctions are not historically successful, according to a 2004 article by Jay Gordon titled “When Economic Sanctions Become Weapons of Mass Destruction.” Gordon analyzed sanctions from World War I until 2000 and found that there was only a real success rate of less than 5 percent.

Now we look to the next part, where people argue, “Well, the top officials at least lose money and then maybe that will affect the issue.” That is according to an article by Arne Tostenson called “Are Smart Sanctions Feasible.” Tostenson argues that the top officials just hide their assets in offshore accounts using fake names. These banks also have not given up the confidentiality policy because that is part of the reason people use them.

Beyond being ineffective, these sanctions are disastrous for innocent people. The reason we should not try them is because they have been disastrous for children. One study by Charles Rarick and Martine Duchateelet titled “An Ethical Assessment of the Use of Economic Sanctions as a Tool of Foreign Policy” found that the death rate for children five and under doubled in Iraq from 1991-1998. The total number of deaths for children under the age of 5 attributed to economic sanctions in Iraq is around 500,000. That is a lot of children.

Even the smart sanctions have a negative effect. The reason for this is because the rich and upper echelons are not going to give up their lifestyle, so they just take away from the poor. The poor are not able to rebel because the upper echelons are the ones that have the weapons and are able to put down rebellions rather quickly. So this leads to their ability to further oppress the lower class.

While I don’t have a perfect solution on how we can respond to Russia, I can honestly say that economic sanctions are not the answer. There are other diplomatic solutions that would be more effective. Overall though, the U.S. needs to use other solutions and not the sanctions. Even war appears to be less deadly then what these articles have showed and is much more effective. So, overall, we need to use a more effective policy tool than economic sanctions.

Regan Williams is a senior majoring in political science and communication studies. His column runs biweekly.

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