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Good intentions pave the road to the "hellish" unknown
Material posted: Publication date: 22-08-2022

«...The innovation of sanctions was to intimidate the peoples with the help of an economic total war and force them to restrain their rulers.."from the book "Economic weapons.

The emergence of sanctions as an instrument of modern warfare"

Globalization as an outgoing economic reality leaves the world community with many problematic areas. One of them deserves special attention. Today it is becoming obvious that the impressive achievements of accelerated global integration have created premium conditions for a very limited number of countries and at the same time have endowed them with such a control tool that allows them to apply for reformatting the global economic system and conducting a kind of audit of countries for compliance with "quality" standards.

Sanctions as a global scarecrow are purposefully and methodically fixed in this quality in information resources. The economic and political agenda of countries and regions is electrified by sanctions issues. Experts from almost all countries have declared that sanctions are our reality for many years, a "black mark" on the image of the future.

Indeed, in the current conditions, many variables indicate that a platform has been created for the implementation of sanctions mechanisms, tools for monitoring their implementation have been developed, and the economic measurement of efficiency shows positive indicators.

Statement by the President of the United States J.Biden's announcement of the introduction of "infernal" sanctions against Russia in the event of an invasion of Ukraine claimed to be an invitation to a new reality. It was especially important to consolidate the understanding that the Western alliance has a new model of sanctions, the instruments of which carry almost a "nuclear" charge. As practice has shown, new products have a fatal tendency to expose the entire spectrum of problem areas.   

A kind of answer book for complex cases is in the precedents of history. A certain degree of similarity of the current situation with the introduction of the continental blockade against Great Britain by Napoleon Bonaparte allows us to draw parallels and clarify the essence and consequences of what is happening. This was the first attempt to impose large-scale sanctions against a great power. Napoleon soberly decided that the impossibility of military confrontation could be compensated by economic strangulation. The main goals were the introduction of restrictions on the maximum number of trading positions (even postal communication was prohibited) and the creation of a continental system. The importance that Napoleon attached to the creation of the anti-British alliance deserves special attention. All territories controlled by France, under threat of invasion, were obliged to comply with the conditions of the blockade. The results of the measures taken by Napoleon were predictable. The repeated increase in pressure and coercion leads to one long–known result - the flourishing of crime and smuggling. Criminal structures have always closely monitored the actions of the authorities and promptly integrated into the opening windows of opportunity. According to the Australian researcher G. Dale, smuggling remains a little sought-after topic, but it is very indicative for understanding the clarity of the consequences.

According to the study of archival documents, by 1810, the volume and organization of contraband shipments led to the fact that it was almost impossible to control them. Therefore, it was decided to use this developed segment for the purposes of the initiator country. With the knowledge of Napoleon, in the period from 1810 to 1814, the French cities of Dunkirk and Gravlin became the headquarters of English smugglers. A specially built complex provided overnight accommodation and facilities for 300 people. Among the tasks that the smugglers had to perform were obtaining insider information and delivering goods that were critical for France. Through such operations, as is known, it is not the state and citizens who thrive, but a narrow group of people who do not bother to pay taxes to the treasury.

As for the other effects that followed the introduction of sanctions against the "workshop of the world" – Great Britain, they showed a clear and clear trend for a multiple excess of costs for the initiator country and coalition colleagues. The UK, on the contrary, withstood the pressure and strengthened its position in other regions.  The anti-British union was collapsing right in the process of its formation, since the lack of democratic values did not restrain the reaction of European rulers to the severe damage to the economy of their own countries.

The structure of the scenarios of subsequent sanctions cases was based mainly on familiar approaches. However, the change of authorship suggested more verified scenario schemes.

The eradication of war and the establishment of world peace was proclaimed the ideal of the XX century. The United States' entry into the world stage and its contribution to ending the First World War presupposed the solution of this global issue. The toolkit was proposed by the US President V.Wilson, who stated that "the boycotted country is close to capitulation. Apply economic, peaceful, quiet, lethal measures, and the use of force will not be necessary. It's a terrible medicine. No one dies from it outside the boycotted state, but it creates pressure that, in my opinion, no modern country can withstand."

In 1919, at the Paris Peace Conference, sanctions were fixed as a tool for combating "aggressors". According to the American researcher N. Mulder, the most significant thing in this event was that from now on sanctions could be imposed in peacetime. And this meant that it was necessary to build a platform of moral justification for this kind of pressure. Prevention of war, deterrence, return to the mind of the lost – all this was offered to the public as the key meanings of sanctions.

By the end of the Second World War, the sanctions model had practically developed. Most importantly, the issue of legitimacy, which was debatable during the existence of the League of Nations, was resolved. Article 41 of the UN Charter establishes the right to use actions "in relation to threats to peace, violations of peace and acts of aggression."

However, the logic of the Cold war dictated the development of parallel instruments of coercion. The premium position of the United States in the global economy during this period contributed to the consolidation of such a phenomenon as unilateral restrictive measures in international practice. Unlike the UN sanctions, these coercive measures did not require consent, were legally enshrined in national legislation and allowed to take into account the interests of the United States in a particular region as much as possible. This is largely why the practice of double standards has been so widely developed. The financial sector has become the favorite "brainchild" of the United States in restrictive measures. The dollar's position as a world currency and intensive economic globalization have endowed the United States with an almost ideal instrument of pressure not only on enemies, but also obstinate allies.

Today we can say that the sanctions model has reached its highest point, if only because it allows us to see a clear "image of the future" of all participants. It is especially important to look at the scenarios of the initiator countries, because their estimates obviously have the greatest reliability in the current conditions. The chain of consequences that the world community will face in the short and medium term should be divided into primary and secondary. The primary ones include the following: "armament", securitization and "Balkanization" of the world economy. These global economic trends are already gaining momentum, and the secondary effects will not be long in coming. The danger, according to Western analysts, is that they will have cartoon effects that are difficult to track. Thus, restrictions on the export of fertilizers will have a systemic impact on food security, especially the so-called third countries. The sanctions against the export of minerals will affect the automotive industry, the aerospace industry, the manufacture of semiconductors, and will hit European technological industries — 3D printing, robotics. The great dream of the Western bloc about green and digital transformation will not only face problems, but will inevitably be postponed. Rising prices for oil, gas, wheat, metals, fertilizers, gold – these are the realities of the current day, which will smoothly move into the future. The acceleration of inflation around the world and the increase in poverty in developing countries are seen simply as a side effect.

But of particular concern is the growing need for state intervention in the economy. And this is no longer a challenge, not a stress test, it is a systematic scrapping of the economic (and political) model, reformatting the configuration of relations in the "state-business" bundle, changing the social fabric of Western society.

In the overall "sanctions package", the advantages are undoubtedly on the side of those who have already gone behind the scenes. And the rest can only say, "Welcome."


Olga Igorevna Lazorkina, Analyst at the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies, Candidate of Historical Sciences

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