Russian Sanctions are America’s Best Option


The U.S. Treasury Department is expanding Russian sanctions. (Courtesy of Twitter)

The United States and its allies must continue sanctioning Russia, or they will only be silently condoning President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. 

On Sept. 30, the U.S. Treasury Department announced an expansion of sanctions due to the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories. The sanctions will target Russian organizations and individuals involved in the weapons supply industry, financial services and Russian legislature. These recent actions are a continuation of a massive effort by the United States, European Union and other allies to impose crippling sanctions on the Russian economy to punish them for the Ukrainian conflict. 

 When the first round of sanctions was announced in February, the Russian ruble and the stock market crashed. The Russian economy went from a predicted growth of 2.5% in GDP this year to almost a 10% drop. However, many of the worst case scenarios have not come to pass. The Russian minister of economic development has revised the original prediction of the economy to 4.2% GDP decline. Now the ruble has rebounded, and the Russian government has taken actions to blunt the effect of the sanctions on its citizens. Putin’s economic ministers have taken steps such as raising the minimum wage by 10%. The official unemployment rate in Russia is at a low level of 3.9%

People may argue that the use of sanctions has not been effective because of the surprising resilience of the Russian economy. However, the potential long-term impact of the sanctions is significant. Although the Russian economy is performing better than predicted, it would be inaccurate to say it is doing great. 

An official Russian government analysis has predicted the economic decline due to sanctions will accelerate to 8.5% GDP decline in an “inertia” scenario and 11% GDP decline in a “stress” scenario. In both cases, it will take the Russian economy the rest of the decade to recover to its pre-war state. Russian consumers are bearing the effects of fewer imports, with many foreign brands no longer being sold. More importantly, industries across the economy like agriculture, aviation and pharmaceuticals have lost access to imports crucial to making their products. There has been a brain drain, with some estimating that 200,000 IT workers will leave the country by 2025. New European oil sanctions starting next winter could further hurt the economy since 55% of oil exports from the past year were from these areas.

 If the purpose of the sanctions was to force Putin to stop the war, it has not worked. He has escalated the war by holding sham elections in four Ukrainian regions and declaring them controlled by Russia. This past week, Russia has escalated its attacks, including an explosion that damaged the Kerch Strait bridge connecting Crimea to Russia and killed 73people by firing missiles into Ukraine cities. Another concern is the effect sanctions have on regular Russian citizens and if they should suffer the consequences of Putin’s actions. 

These are valid concerns, but I still believe the sanctions are necessary. The United States and its allies do not have a lot of options to retaliate against Russia’s actions. It would be unwise to get the U.S. military involved due to the risk of escalation, especially when Putin seems eager to talk about nuclear weapons. However, it would be wrong for the United States to denounce the invasion without taking any sort of action. If the Russian government faced no consequences from the global community other than a verbal scolding, they would ignore it and carry on with their invasion while suffering no economic loss. 

Although the sanctions may not stop the war, they are at least making the Russian economy ache to some degree. While the sanctions are harming everyday Russian citizens, I would argue that Putin is hurting them more by continuing this war. The recent extension of the draft and the protests are just further burdens Putin is placing on his people. The longer the war continues, the more he prolongs the suffering of his citizens.

Actions have consequences. When a world leader like Putin believes that he can override the self-determination of Ukraine, fire missiles into their cities and have his army slaughter civilians in Ukraine, the world can’t just stand by and watch. If we label sanctions as unnecessary, all the horrific actions listed above will be silently permitted and Putin will continue his atrocities unharmed.

Evan McManus, FCRH ’25, is a political science major from Dover, M.A.