Are Russian Sanctions Effective?

Opposing Views of Two Prominent Figures: Noam Chomsky vs. White House Economic Advisor

Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky

Are Russian Sanctions Effective?

American led international sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine were but a continuation of earlier sanctions that started in 2014 when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea. Belarus has also been sanctioned for its cooperation with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  The sanctions were imposed mostly by the US, the European Union and many international organizations. Russia responded with sanctions against several countries, including a total ban on food imports from Australia, Canada, Norway, Japan, the United States, and the EU.

Last week, the Washington Post said that the sanctions were a “double-edged sword” with good and bad consequences for both Russia and the West. With the help of world maps, the newspaper showed that 141 countries initially voted in support of Ukraine at the UN at the beginning of March. But last week, 93 countries supported the removal of Russia from the UN Human Rights Council, with many counties in Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia either absent or abstaining.

Worldwide, only seven countries, besides the EU, have imposed official sanctions against Russia.

The headline of this WAPO report, “US Widens Sanctions Against Russia as Questions About Effectiveness Mount,” illustrated a debate in the US about this subject which is just beginning.

As the war seemed to be continuing for a long time, with the sanctions’ 'double-edged sword,” the debate seems to be shifting to the non-military aspects of the war.

Following are two opposing opinions about the sanctions, from their authors' respective tweets, websites, and statements to the media.

On one side, Noam Chomsky (93 years old), the veteran progressive language scientist and activist, known for his courageous opinions opposing the US support of Israeli expansionism, the invasion of Iraq, and other aspects of the US-led Global War on Terrorism (GWOT).

On the other side, Brian Deese, White House National Economic Council Director. Before this job, he was a White House senior economic adviser during the Barack Obama administration, and later a senior official at BlackRock, a New York based multinational investment corporation.



Noam Chomsky


“Imposing harsh sanctions on countries that refuse to go along with Washington’s commands is a long-established tactic on the part of the U.S.

Even scholars living in countries under sanctions have been treated as undesirables. In fact, even inside the US, scholars who deviate from Washington’s command have been treated as also undesirable – including myself …

During decades, it has been shown that the political culture in the U.S. is not too keen, at all, on permitting dissident voices to be widely heard in the public arena.

This is too large a topic to take up here. And much too important for casual comments. But it’s worth remembering that, once again, it is nothing new.

We all recall when the august Senate changed French fries to “freedom fries” in furious reaction to France’s impudent refusal to join in Washington’s criminal assault on Iraq.

We may see something similar soon if President Macron of France, one of the few reasonable voices in high Western circles, continues to call for moderation in words and actions and for exploring diplomatic options …

The easy decline to scaremongering goes back much further, reaching comic depths when the U.S. entered World War I and all things German instantly became anathema.

The plague is not confined to U.S. shores.

To take one personal example, I recently heard from a colleague that an article of his was returned to him, unread, by a highly respected philosophy journal in England, with a notice that the article could not be considered because he is a citizen of a country under sanctions: Iran.

The sanctions are strongly opposed by Europe, but as usual, it submits to the Master, even to the extent of banning an article by an Iranian philosopher.

Putin’s great gift to Washington has been to intensify this subordination to power.

I can add many examples right here, some from my own personal experience, but it should not be overlooked that the malignancy spreads well beyond …

On the current military situation, there are two radically different stories. The familiar one is provided by Ukraine: Russia’s attempt to overthrow the Ukrainian government has failed, so Russia is now retreating to the occupied south and east of the country, planning a “Korean scenario."

On the other hand, Russian military leaders are telling a very different story: A rendition of George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq, though without the dramatic trappings…

Since Ukraine rejected diplomacy, it was necessary to extend the operation to “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine.

Two tales, same ending -- with or without the sanctions.”




Brian Deese


“Anyone who looks at the Russian economy right now and thinks they’re bouncing back or showing some signs of life is I think missing the forest for the trees …

The Russians are completely ostracized.

The sanctions are working despite these criticisms, pointing to projections that the Russian economy could contract by as much as 15 percent this year. That would be the single biggest decline in the Russian economy since the start of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989. They have also said inflation in Russia has risen at roughly 2 percent a week, which would translate into roughly 200 percent inflation if compounded over a year …

Sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its European allies on Russia are having a crippling impact on the Russian economy, but will need time to continue to make an impact …

We need to have patience and perspective when it comes to the impacts on Russia of this unprecedented and crippling sanctions regime that we have now put in place.

We have just announced a new raft of sanctions against Russia, on the heels of a recent rebound in the Russian ruble that followed earlier rounds of sanctions. The newest sanctions are meant to work across different categories to impose an economic cost on Russia and target key sectors of its economy …

About the rebound ruble is an expected temporary development. Soon the ruble will face the contorted capital control regime the Russian central bank and the Russian government are having to put in place, which is in and of itself bleeding them of resources.

The latest sanctions will include full blocking sanctions on two large Russian banks, Sberbank and Alfa Bank. Sberbank holds about one-third of the Russian banking sector’s assets, while Alfa Bank is the country’s largest privately-owned bank. Also several state-owned Russian enterprises, including an aircraft and shipbuilding corporation; the adult daughters of President Vladimir Putin; and family members of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Also included is a ban on inbound investment by Americans in Russia …”

font change
Related Articles