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The Futility of Sanctions on Russia
Townhall.com ^ | March 9, 2014 | Steve Chapman

Posted on 03/09/2014 8:30:08 AM PDT by Kaslin

In 1980, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter came up with a way to retaliate: stopping grain sales to Moscow. The boycott, said Commerce Secretary Philip Klutznick, would prove to the world that "aggression is costly" and induce the Soviets to "halt their aggression."

The Soviets did halt their aggression and pull out of Afghanistan. But that didn't happen until nine years later, and it had nothing to do with the grain embargo. American farmers suffered because their prices dropped, but the Kremlin managed to buy grain elsewhere. So the following year, President Ronald Reagan lifted the ban.

The fact that those sanctions proved useless has not stopped President Barack Obama or congressional Republicans from proposing new ones. On Thursday, the president announced he would deny visas and possibly freeze the assets of Russian officials and entities deemed complicit in the invasion of Ukraine.

The measures would prevent American companies from doing business with those individuals and firms. An administration official told The Hill, in words that could have been beamed straight from 1980, that this response would "send a strong message" and "impose costs on Russia."

The real message is different: We have no desire to take military action and don't really expect economic punishment to work, but we have to do something, however pointless. In international relations, governments would rather engage in empty symbolic action than no action at all.

Economic sanctions exert a perennial appeal during geopolitical crises because they spill no blood and cost little money, at least compared to the toll of war. These virtues are enough to make everyone forget that they rarely accomplish anything beyond allowing our leaders to posture.

A revealing example is the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba, which was imposed in 1960 with the goal of driving Fidel Castro's communist government from power. The boycott is still in place, more than a half-century later, and so is the regime.

We also tried tightening the economic screws on Iraq before our first war with Saddam Hussein, starting in 1990, and it was highly effective -- if the goal was to torment ordinary Iraqis who had no control over the government. Upward of half a million children died as a result of malnutrition and disease brought on by the embargo. The tyrant we were straining to dislodge, however, stayed in power until the U.S. invasion of 2003.

Experts on the subject are divided into two groups: those who think sanctions usually fail and those who think they almost always fail. Gary Hufbauer, an economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, says sanctions have been effective in about 30 percent of the cases they've been used. But he doubts the steps taken by Obama -- what he calls "light" sanctions -- will make any difference in Ukraine.

"The success rates for symbolic or 'light' sanctions, for sanctions against autocratic governments, and for sanctions seeking territorial concessions are lower," he said by email. For anyone hoping to get the Russians out of Crimea, he said, "these findings are not auspicious."

Pessimists are even gloomier. University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape calculates that sanctions have worked less than 5 percent of the time. The intractable obstacle, he has written, is that modern governments are "willing to endure considerable punishment rather than abandon what are seen as the interests of the nation."

Crimea is unquestionably regarded as a vital interest by Moscow. Weak regimes are more susceptible to pressure, but Vladimir Putin's regime is not a weak one.

Advocates may claim success in the case of Iran, which recently agreed to temporary curbs on its nuclear program after years of economic warfare. But it's too early to know whether this step will yield a permanent solution.

As for Putin, our best hope is that he bites off more than he can chew. The invasion of Afghanistan looked like a success at the outset, but it spawned a fierce insurgency that cost thousands of Soviet lives, forced a humiliating retreat and helped bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union. The farther Putin pushes and the longer he stays the more likely this occupation will end in tears.

There is a very slim possibility that Western economic sanctions will undo his ambitions in Ukraine. There is a better chance that those ambitions will undo themselves.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Russia
KEYWORDS: sanctions; ukraine

1 posted on 03/09/2014 8:30:08 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

If Obama did nothing more than approve Keystone and negotiate a long term gas deal with Europe, he would send a strong message.

Instead, Vlad won’t be able to bring his family to NYC to see Rockefeller Center this coming Winter Solstace.


2 posted on 03/09/2014 8:39:44 AM PDT by EQAndyBuzz (Insurgent Conservative)
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To: EQAndyBuzz
If Obama did nothing more than approve Keystone and negotiate a long term gas deal with Europe, he would send a strong message.

That's about the most sensible thing I've seen in a while. The people all hot and bothered for a new cold war are ignoring the fact that we're flat ass broke and will lose if we try to do it the way Reagan did it.
3 posted on 03/09/2014 8:49:47 AM PDT by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: Kaslin

Interesting that the author, in using Afghanistan as an example did not point out how well the US has done there in comparison to the Soviet failure.


4 posted on 03/09/2014 8:51:51 AM PDT by Navy Patriot (Join the Democrats, it's not Fascism when WE do it, and the Constitution and law mean what WE say.)
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To: EQAndyBuzz
If Obama did nothing more than approve Keystone and negotiate a long term gas deal with Europe, he would send a strong message.

You should be in charge...that makes sense.

5 posted on 03/09/2014 8:54:31 AM PDT by grania
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To: Kaslin

When the history of WW III is written, researchers will point to Obama’s decision to send a delegation of Homosexuals to the Sochi Olympics if a childish effort to insult the president of Russia.


6 posted on 03/09/2014 8:56:09 AM PDT by Cowboy Bob (They are called "Liberals" because the word "parasite" was already taken.)
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To: EQAndyBuzz; cripplecreek
If Obama did nothing more than approve Keystone and negotiate a long term gas deal with Europe, he would send a strong message.

Any and all US policy reversals to make the US a strong and self reliant petro/natural gas energy producer and exporter would make Russia address energy in a more free market way, but the biggest losers on the planet would be the Saudi group petro cartel and the all Islamic terrorist groups they fund so generously.

7 posted on 03/09/2014 9:00:16 AM PDT by Navy Patriot (Join the Democrats, it's not Fascism when WE do it, and the Constitution and law mean what WE say.)
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To: Navy Patriot

It looks to me like our only real trump card.

We can’t outspend them so we should out earn them.


8 posted on 03/09/2014 9:06:21 AM PDT by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: Kaslin

Sanctions on Russia are about domestic western politics. All the kenyan cares about is appearing to do something while the Russians rape another neighbor.

Most likely Russia is never going to leave Crimea. The only option left for the west is a version of MAD. Tell Putin he might win in Crimea but he will lose everywhere else. Unfortunately, that would require concrete actions. Neither the kenyan or EU want any part of that. So instead we get these phony sanction threats. Given the projection of weakness so far, I doubt there will be any teeth to the sanctions.


9 posted on 03/09/2014 9:08:48 AM PDT by lodi90
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To: lodi90

Strengthening our ties in central and south America causing Russia some pain but again, we’re still stuck with a marxist president who will only screw that up.


10 posted on 03/09/2014 9:25:17 AM PDT by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: cripplecreek
...we should out earn them.

Ya can't get more American than that.

Aside: You will notice that the technique Reagan used to oppose the Soviet Union was, we out produced them.

11 posted on 03/09/2014 9:27:22 AM PDT by Navy Patriot (Join the Democrats, it's not Fascism when WE do it, and the Constitution and law mean what WE say.)
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To: cripplecreek
Strengthening our ties in central and south America causing Russia some pain but again, we’re still stuck with a marxist president who will only screw that up.

He already has.

Recall that our Leader was best buds with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Then, he supported Manuel Zelaya's attempted coup in Honduras.

Obama likes dictators...

12 posted on 03/09/2014 9:38:38 AM PDT by okie01 (The Mainstream Media -- IGNORANCE ON PARADE)
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To: Navy Patriot

“but the biggest losers on the planet would be the Saudi group petro cartel and the all Islamic terrorist groups they fund so generously.”

Ahh....win/win.

Difference between liberal and conservative unintended consequences is conservative unintended consequences usually help America.


13 posted on 03/09/2014 9:39:21 AM PDT by EQAndyBuzz (Insurgent Conservative)
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To: Kaslin

Any bargaining power that Obama might have had in this situation was lost when he had his hissy fit over gay rights in Russia prior to the Sochi Games.


14 posted on 03/09/2014 9:39:41 AM PDT by Uncle Chip
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To: EQAndyBuzz

America should pay attention to her real enemy.


15 posted on 03/09/2014 9:50:41 AM PDT by Navy Patriot (Join the Democrats, it's not Fascism when WE do it, and the Constitution and law mean what WE say.)
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To: Uncle Chip

Any bargaining power that Obama might have had in this situation was lost when he had his hissy fit over gay rights in Russia prior to the Sochi Games.


The kenyan has plenty of chips but won’t use them. The cancelled missile program, NATO presence in the FSU (Baltics, etc.), expropriation of Russian assests in the west, etc., etc. Putin could be humiliated quite easily. The Russian kleptocracy is a paper tiger and only western greed is keeping the response to the invasion minimal.


16 posted on 03/09/2014 10:14:12 AM PDT by lodi90
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To: Kaslin

Oddly enough, this shows the brilliance of Ronald Reagan, and was how he defeated the Soviet Union.

Early on, when he opened up unrestricted grain sales to the Soviet Union, he got a lot of heat from the right, who said that he was “propping up” the Soviet Union; and from the left, who said he was “buying the farm vote.”

What nobody figured on was that Reagan understood the communists, and meant to destroy them with grain.

The background for this was the rigid communist ideology, and their belief that communal farms *must* be more efficient than capitalist farms. And like modern Democrats, they didn’t care what reality proved, because of their religious faith in communist doctrines.

So the vast majority of Soviet farmland was communal, yet produced only a small fraction of the grain they needed, year after year, while the grudgingly few farms that paid wages, and even fewer black market private farms, provided the bulk of the food they consumed. But it was not enough.

Thus they had to import grain. Too paranoid to eat it themselves, they used it to feed their farm animals, and diverted the animal food grain to feed themselves.

And Reagan opened the floodgates for US farmers to sell them all the grain they wanted. All the *expensive* grain they wanted.

At first, the Soviets paid for our grain with their oil, every last drop of it, except for what they used themselves. But it was not enough. So they paid for the grain with their gold, every last bit of it, and even began dredging their river deltas for more. But it was not enough.

So they paid us all the foreign currency they had. And their economy was bled dry, scraping the bottom of the barrel.

And when they didn’t have a spare dime left, Reagan casually announced the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars) program, with many billions of dollars thrown at it, to build missile defenses against Soviet missiles.

It broke them. They knew there was no possible way to match US spending, so soon they would be helpless before the US.

Right then, Gorbachev was offered the job of General Party Secretary. And he shocked everyone by naming a single condition to his taking the job. That the books of the Soviet Union be audited. To do this, he got a brilliant and studious man that nobody was angry with, who assembled a team from the communist party, the KGB and the army, who went around the Soviet Union to get the truth.

Anyone who lied to him would have been shot, and knew it.

He reported back directly to the assembled Politburo at intervals. And he told them disaster after disaster, how the Soviet Union was in ruins.

And that was pretty much that. They gave up.

So this was how Ronald Reagan defeated the Soviet Union with grain.


17 posted on 03/09/2014 10:17:49 AM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy (WoT News: Rantburg.com)
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To: cripplecreek; Navy Patriot
You mean what Sarah Palin Said?

Hmm... What an Idiot!

/sarc

Of Course Sarah was hardly the first to realize or push for developing our own Natural Resources to get some Petro-Dollars ourselves.

Any thinking American would come to the same conclusion.

18 posted on 03/09/2014 11:09:11 AM PDT by KC_Lion (Build the America you want to live in at your address, and keep looking up.- Sarah Palin)
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To: KC_Lion

I suspect that if pressed on it, she would also suggest that our approach can’t be all stick.

Russia has the potential to be a great ally but they don’t respect weakness. Weakness is what got us here.


19 posted on 03/09/2014 11:19:27 AM PDT by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: cripplecreek
I remember back in the late 90's Early 2000's all the games I played had Russia and the west as Allies now/near future.

Then in the late 2000's they switched to being the big bad again.

Just something I noticed growing up.

This kind of Conflict should have been prevented with Good Diplomacy before hand.

And that means not have a Pill Pedaling Homo as a President screwing up everything he touches.

Ubama is a thug.

But Putin is an even bigger thug who isn't going to play his silly game.

THIS is what happens when Grow-Ups aren't in charge and you meet a Non-Arbitrary force of nature like Putin.

20 posted on 03/09/2014 11:23:50 AM PDT by KC_Lion (Build the America you want to live in at your address, and keep looking up.- Sarah Palin)
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To: Kaslin
MomJeans Obama sending "a strong message" to Russia


21 posted on 03/09/2014 11:40:48 AM PDT by Marguerite (When I'm good, I'm very good, but when I'm bad, I'm even better)
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To: KC_Lion
I remember back in the late 90's Early 2000's all the games I played had Russia and the west as Allies now/near future.

Then in the late 2000's they switched to being the big bad again.

Just something I noticed growing up.

Nothing is coincidental, who authored the games?

22 posted on 03/09/2014 2:03:25 PM PDT by Navy Patriot (Join the Democrats, it's not Fascism when WE do it, and the Constitution and law mean what WE say.)
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To: Navy Patriot
Oh I don't remember, the ones coming to mind right now is the first Command and Conquer Game. It had Russia in with the Good Faction GDI, which of course had the U.S.A. in it too.

Now the Spin offs and Prequels had the Soviet Union as the villains. But they were set in the 50's and 70's.

The Original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare had Civil War in Russia and you had to fight the Ultra-Nationalist (which is why I did a doubt when I heard that term in regards to the Ukraine Crisis) but they Jumped the Shark with a Lame Red Dawn Eqase Invasion of the US in the Squeal.

23 posted on 03/09/2014 2:23:59 PM PDT by KC_Lion (Build the America you want to live in at your address, and keep looking up.- Sarah Palin)
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To: Navy Patriot
"did a Double Take when I heard that term in regards to the Ukraine Crisis"

Damn Android Phone.

24 posted on 03/09/2014 2:25:25 PM PDT by KC_Lion (Build the America you want to live in at your address, and keep looking up.- Sarah Palin)
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To: KC_Lion
"...who authored the games"

American, Western European, Japanese and South Korean gaming companies and their designers.

That's the answer you are looking for.

25 posted on 03/09/2014 2:32:31 PM PDT by Navy Patriot (Join the Democrats, it's not Fascism when WE do it, and the Constitution and law mean what WE say.)
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To: Navy Patriot
Well, Westwood did C&C before EA bought them out.

Ditto Infinity Ward for COD

EA Games: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpKiPyNynU8

26 posted on 03/09/2014 2:34:12 PM PDT by KC_Lion (Build the America you want to live in at your address, and keep looking up.- Sarah Palin)
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