Given Russia’s imbalanced economy — heavily dependent on energy income — it seemed an easy target for Western sanctions, but instead Russians have responded by creating new industries, big and small, writes Gilbert Doctorow.
By Gilbert Doctorow
In 2014, when the United States and the European Union slapped sanctions on Russian officials and businesses, many observers both in Russia and the West predicted serious problems for the Russian economy and near-certain failure of the Russian government’s efforts to substitute for the lost access to foreign products. But those dire predictions were based on a complete misreading of the mood and general political situation in Russia.
The American legislators who initiated the sanctions believed that the punishment directed at the Kremlin leadership and Russia’s corporate chieftains would alienate the so-called oligarchs from President Vladimir Putin and possibly lead to regime change or, at a minimum, a change in Russia’s foreign policy to suit better the wishes of Washington.
U.S. and European politicians justified the sanctions as punishment for what they called Russia’s “annexation” of Crimea and Russia’s military intervention in the Donbas region of Ukraine in reaction to what Moscow and many eastern Ukrainians called a Western-orchestrated “coup” that overthrew the elected government of Ukraine in February 2014.
Russia responded to the Western sanctions with an embargo on food products from the sanctioning countries and rolled out a generalized policy of “import substitution” to sharply curtail the dependency of the Russian economy on outside commercial products and political pressures.
More than two years later – although Russia has faced some difficulties – the evidence is now clear that the sanctions against Russia have largely failed, on both an economic and political level. Reunification with Crimea and the ensuing Western sanctions aroused a swelling of national pride and patriotic feelings in the broad public.
So, instead of…