Purpose of sanctions is unclear for many Russians

According to a recent survey by the analytical Levada Center, most Russians do not make the connection between economic sanctions imposed by the U.S and the E.U. and Russian policy in Ukraine. Source: RIA Novosti

According to a recent survey by the analytical Levada Center, most Russians do not make the connection between economic sanctions imposed by the U.S and the E.U. and Russian policy in Ukraine. Source: RIA Novosti

As restrictions remain in place, a survey shows uncertainty about the goals of the bans.

At a meeting on Sept. 30, the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the European Union declined to make any changes in the sanctions currently in place against Russia. The next chance European leaders will have to consider the question of whether sanctions against Russia can be lifted will be Oct. 23-24, during the European Council meeting in Brussels.

A source close to E.U. officials told the Russian news agency Tass that any decision on the sanctions will be based on “how the situation in Ukraine will unfold.” According to Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the journal “Russia in Global Affairs,” this reasoning is not surprising.

“Political leaders will continue to follow the development of events in Ukraine, and only in the case of stable progress can sanctions be attenuated,” said Lukyanov. The senior editor is hopeful that the E.U. will act sooner rather than later to remove some sanctions, since the ties between Russia and the E.U. mean that European economies are also suffering from the policies.

Alexei Skopin, head of the department of regional economy and economic geography at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, said that Russia’s retaliatory sanctions were having their intended effect on the E.U., although Russians may be suffering more.

“The first series of Russian retaliatory sanctions demonstrated its counter-productiveness both for Russia and the E.U.,” said Skopin. “In particular, it had been estimated that prices on agricultural products [in Russia] would increase by 15 percent, but prices on certain products increased by 40 percent, which is completely unacceptable.”

He emphasized that the result of the sanctions is that in Russia consumers are suffering, whereas in Europe, the producers are feeling the pressure.

The U.S. role

Regardless of what the E.U. decides later in the month, Lukyanov noted that the U.S. political establishment was not even open to discussing the lifting of sanctions at this point. According to Lukyanov, the United States is much less tied to Russia economically than Europe is and can therefore continue to put economic pressure on Russia for a long time.

“I think that Washington’s objective is not even the defense of Ukraine from Russia’s aggression, but rather the long-term intention to have Moscow assume a more circumspect foreign policy course,” Lukyanov said.

Skopin thinks that the U.S. has additional motives for keeping the sanctions in place. “The American economy gains a new weapons market in Europe and Ukraine,” Skopin said. “New jobs will consequently be created and the economy will receive a boost. The sanctions against Russia kill two birds with one stone — reduce the market for Russian weapons and reduce the credit line for Moscow.”

Russian reaction

According to a recent survey by the analytical Levada Center, most Russians do not make the connection between economic sanctions imposed by the U.S and the E.U. and Russian policy in Ukraine. In a poll conducted Sept. 19-22 among 1,600 respondents in 46 Russian regions, 71 percent of Russians believe that the main purpose of Western sanctions is “to weaken and humiliate Russia.”

Another 18 percent felt that the sanctions were in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, while 4 percent said the purpose of the sanctions was “to stop the war, destruction and human casualties in eastern Ukraine.”

Sixty-eight percent of the respondents believe Russia should “continue its policy” in retaliation against the sanctions, almost a fifth (22 percent) call for “seeking a compromise and making concessions in order to stop the sanctions” and 10 percent are undecided.

While respondents generally were open to additional retaliatory sanctions against some Western products, 51 percent were against banning Western pharmaceutical products and 45 percent were against banning Western computers and mobile phones.

Read more: 25 percent of Russian oil market in jeopardy as foreign partners move out>>>

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