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Executive Summary: THE IMPACT OF SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA FOLLOWING THEIR INVASION OF UKRAINE

Updated: Apr 3

Jennifer Kelly, Illicit Finance and Economic Threats (IFET) Team

Week of Monday, March 7, 2022


Protest against Russian Invasion of Ukraine[1]


On February 24, 2022, Russia attacked Ukraine by land, sea, and air, resulting in an ongoing conflict in Ukrainian cities, and causing more than two million Ukrainians to evacuate to other European countries as of March 2022.[2] The attacks will very likely lead to millions more displaced Ukrainians emigrating to Europe, as it will almost certainly take years to rebuild the communities of those that remain in Ukraine due to the devastation the Russian attacks caused. Russian President Vladimir Putin justified his actions by declaring that Russia could not feel "safe, develop and exist" due to the constant threat he claimed came from modern Ukraine.[3] Several countries, including the US, imposed sanctions against Russia to damage their economy and pressure the Russian government into stopping the attacks.[4] It is unlikely the sanctions will impact the Russian governments’ abilities to gather funds due to economic partnerships overseas. The sanctions will almost certainly have the greatest impact on the Russian working-class, very likely raising unemployment and poverty rates. Russian President Putin will likely be unwilling to fully cooperate with those countries that imposed sanctions on Russia in the coming years, and it is unlikely the Russian population will trust their government going forward due to their actions against Ukraine.


Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU, the US, and the United Kingdom (UK) imposed several economic sanctions, including banning their respective citizens from “making transactions with the Central Bank of Russia, its finance ministry and its wealth fund”.[5] Switzerland also adopted the EU sanctions freezing the assets of Russian companies and individuals, including Russian President Putin.[6] Banning international transactions with the Central Bank of Russian Federation and freezing the assets of Russian companies will almost certainly disrupt income and lead to financial strain for Russians who conduct business globally. Russian immigrants and expatriates who operate Russian companies or still utilize Russian bank accounts will also likely experience economic hardship due to a lack of access to funds. Switzerland’s decision to abstain from its traditional neutrality will likely encourage other countries currently refraining from imposing sanctions on Russia to act. However, directly freezing the assets of the Russian President and ministers will very unlikely bankrupt them as they almost certainly have economic cooperation with financial facilitators in other countries, such as China and Brazil. It is also unlikely that all financial institutions in countries imposing sanctions are capable of identifying shell companies or proxies acting on behalf of sanctioned Russian officials due to a lack of knowledge or technology. Russian President Putin is very unlikely to cease his military commands and stop the invasion due to direct sanctions, as the Russian military operations were very likely carefully planned and funded in advance, judging from the previous Russian troops deployment to Ukrainian borders.


Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and several other countries also announced their own financial sanctions against Russia, targeting banks, oil refineries, and military exports.[7] Russia responded by imposing an export ban on products including telecoms, medical equipment, and electrical equipment to all countries that announced sanctions until the end of 2022.[8] Russia will almost certainly lose significant export profits due to the sanctions and the export ban, as it is unlikely they will be able to meet the same trading figures with non-sanctioned countries. The loss of export revenue will very likely lead to the Russian government readjusting its budget with meaningful sectors, such as education or healthcare, to prioritize military funding. Russia will also likely extend their exports ban to other sectors, including raw materials and agricultural supplies if Western countries continue to impose sanctions. Extending the ban will almost certainly disrupt the global food supply chain due to the dependence on agricultural materials for the world’s food markets. It is unlikely the Russian government will be willing to closely align itself with any country that introduced sanctions following the end of their export ban and will likely continue the ban indefinitely after 2022. The Russian economy will very likely be isolated and struggle to regain its standing in global financial markets for the foreseeable future.


As of March 10, 2022, almost 330 international companies have withdrawn from or reduced their services in Russia in response to the Ukraine invasion.[9] Apple and Google removed or restricted products and services from the Russian market, including Apple Pay and Google Pay, both digital forms of payment.[10] Car manufacturers, including Toyota, have halted production in Russian-based factories, indefinitely stopping vehicle imports into the country.[11] If the attacks continue, other companies such as the retail store Decathlon will likely restrict or suspend services in Russia, leading to a significant loss of jobs for Russian employees in the retail or factory industries. Russian citizens will almost certainly experience a shortage of products and services related to technology and cars, likely leading to high inflation rates. With the suspension of Russia from global payments service providers, many Russians will very likely experience disruption to services, including food delivery and public transport. A lack of access to transport services and the inability to cover car maintenance costs will likely impact Russian individuals' commute to employment opportunities, likely further aggravating the financial situation of the working class.


Visa and Mastercard have complied with US sanctions by blocking several Russian financial institutions from their networks, impacting international transactions.[12] These sanctions imposed by Western countries have led to the Russian ruble hitting record lows, with many Russian citizens rushing to convert their funds into foreign currency.[13] Visa and Mastercard’s sanctions will almost certainly impact Russian emigrants and expatriates who will be unable to use their Russian debit and credit cards abroad. Any Russians abroad who do not have access to a non-Russian bank account will very likely struggle to financially support themselves overseas. It is almost certain the international card companies' sanctions will drive Russian citizens to use the national payment system Mir, likely resulting in the Russian government monopolizing the industry.[14] The Russian ruble depreciation will almost certainly increase the cost of living for the Russian working-class, who is very likely already facing increased financial pressure due to the restrictions on international products and services. If the Russian ruble does not improve, poverty levels in Russia will likely rise, likely resulting in citizens being unable to support themselves and their families. Many Russians will very likely be unable to afford private healthcare and education opportunities, pressuring the public sectors and likely reducing human capital quality. It will very likely take years for the Russian economy to recover, likely leading many Russian citizens to emigrate for better opportunities and a standard of living.


European countries such as Germany and Italy are heavily dependent on Russia’s oil and gas exports, with the EU receiving almost 40 percent of its gas and more than 25 percent of its oil from Russia.[15] Some European companies experienced up to a 62 percent increase of oil and gas prices following the Russian invasion.[16] The EU is one of Russia’s largest trading partners for fuel, accounting for 70 percent of gas exports and 50 percent of oil exports.[17] Oil and gas prices across Europe will almost certainly continue to rise in the coming months due to the supply disruption from the Russian sanctions, likely further increasing the cost of living for many Europeans and resulting in rising poverty rates. People who cannot afford to heat their homes in the colder months are very likely at risk of illness and hypothermia, which, if left untreated, will likely lead to death. Some individuals who rely on cars to commute for work will likely quit their jobs and search for alternative employment closer to them due to the inability to pay for car fuel. Unless European countries can arrange a new source of fossil fuel from another country such as Venezuela, oil and gas reserves in Europe will almost certainly run dry, likely causing a fuel shortage in the coming years.


 

[1] “People Holding Anti-War Signs and Protesting in the Street” by Katie Godowski licensed under Pexels

[2] Why is Russia invading Ukraine and what does Putin want?, BBC, March 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56720589

[3] EXPLAINER: Why Did Russia Invade Ukraine?, US News, February 2022, https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2022-02-24/explainer-why-did-russia-invade-ukraine

[4] What sanctions are being imposed on Russia over Ukraine invasion?, BBC, March 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60125659

[5] Why is Russia invading Ukraine and what does Putin want?, BBC, March 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56720589

[6] Switzerland ditches neutrality to sanction Russia and Putin, CNN, March 2022, https://edition.cnn.com/2022/03/01/business/switzerland-sanction-russia-freeze-assets-intl-hnk/index.html

[7] List of sanctions against Russia after it invaded Ukraine, Al Jazeera, March 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/25/list-of-sanctions-on-russia-after-invasion

[8] Russia hits back at Western sanctions with export bans, BBC, March 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/business-60689279

[9] Nearly 330 Companies Have Withdrawn From Russia, Investopedia, March 2022, https://www.investopedia.com/nearly-330-companies-have-withdrawn-from-russia-5221814

[10] Apple, Nike, and Google join brands limiting services, BBC, March 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-60579641

[11] Toyota to suspend Russian car production, vehicle imports, Reuters, March 2022, https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/honda-suspend-automobile-motorcycle-exports-russia-nhk-2022-03-02/

[12] Visa and Mastercard suspend Russian operations, BBC, March 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/business-60637429

[13] Rouble hits record low in Moscow, remains volatile outside Russia, Reuters, March 2022, https://www.reuters.com/markets/europe/russian-rouble-slips-past-100-vs-dollar-banks-hunt-fx-2022-03-02/

[14] MIR (National Payment Card), PPRO, https://www.ppro.com/payment-methods/mir-national-payment-card/

[15] Why the Toughest Sanctions on Russia Are the Hardest for Europe to Wield, The New York Times, February 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/business/economy/russia-europe-sanctions-gas-oil.html

[16] Europe’s gas prices soar 62% as crisis puts fuel supply at risk, Al Jazeera, February 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2022/2/24/europes-gas-prices-soar-62-as-crisis-puts-fuel-supply-at-risk

[17] Why the Toughest Sanctions on Russia Are the Hardest for Europe to Wield, The New York Times, February 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/business/economy/russia-europe-sanctions-gas-oil.html

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