EU will find Russian sanctions worth the pain

July 30, 2014

By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. 

It took time for European Union leaders to agree on tough economic sanctions against Russia. The EU is slow. Its members have conflicting interests. Their economies don’t all have the same exposure to Russia. Yet they have finally agreed with the United States on a list of measures to punish Russian banks and oil companies. The already weak EU economy will suffer in return. But over time, Europe will find that the sanctions were worth the pain.

Russian state-owned banks will be cut off from Western capital markets. The country’s oil industry will not be able to access the foreign technology needed to drill in challenging territories like the Arctic. The travel of senior politicians and company executives close to the regime will be restricted, and they will fear for the money they have stashed abroad.

Even more important than the direct impact of the measures, Russia is becoming a pariah for investment and trade. It would take a brave and bold Western bank to, say, arrange a syndicated loan for a state-owned Russian company, even if that remains technically legal.

How much Europe will suffer is hard to assess, considering that the Russian economy was already headed for a major slowdown before the Ukrainian crisis. The International Monetary Fund expects a paltry 0.2 percent GDP increase this year. The latest round of sanctions is likely to tip Russia into recession. The EU only sends 7 percent of its exports to Russia, but it will feel the pinch nonetheless – even in the absence of reprisals from Moscow.

The EU has finally accepted the pain. But in reality it has nothing to lose, and a lot to gain. The aim of the sanctions is to force Vladimir Putin to adopt a more rational policy towards Ukraine. If that happens, both Russia and its neighbour can focus on their economic problems – and Europe will benefit.

If, on the other hand, Putin persists in his current policies, that will be a sure sign that Russia is headed for another time of troubles. Then the Western warning to investors to stay away from the country will look prescient.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

America broke UN law with the Ukrainian coup d’état. Why is everyone ganging up on Russia who defends their citizens in Ukraine and Crimea? Do you all expect the public to accept this Russian Bogey-Man 3 card trick to con the public while the global endless war gets a free pass courtesy of the craven EU. I hope these words don’t offend too many sheeple but more and more thinking people recognise a con trick when they see one as blatant as this.

Posted by baglanboy | Report as abusive

I agree with this article.

No wanted any trouble with Russia–either in Europe or the US.

There has been a political tug-of-war between the Russia and the West in the Ukraine for some time. Russia has been fixing elections and supporting pro-Russian candidates in the Ukraine. Ethnic Ukrainians have been given candidates who are puppets of Russia and Putin.

Putin’s claim that the US is at fault for meddling in Ukrainian politics is another big Putin line. Russia has been meddling in Ukrainian politics long before the US got involved–and the Orange Revolution was a manifestation of ethnic Ukrainian dissatisfaction with Russian control.

I hope the world has learned by now that dictators who choose to bully other nations need very clear signals (short of war) that their behavior is unacceptable. The absence of clear signals (sanctions that hurt) is invariably seen by the dictator as tacit approval or acceptance of their bullying–and leads to more egregious behavior.

Hitler’s rise is a case study in how ineffectual responses by European nations encourages future violence.

Europeans, of all people, should remember their history.

Posted by MaskOfZero | Report as abusive