How the key in stopping Putin could lie with the Russian people – expert

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A flurry of sanctions announced by western nations over the past week has begun to have an effect on Russia. Over time, the sanctions aimed at punishing the Kremlin could cause the country’s stock market to falter, cut the value of the ruble and make doing business in Russia increasingly difficult. But experts have argued that the sanctions don’t go far enough – and have missed the mark in targeting the right people.

Much has been made of the choice to target Russian oligarchs – those Russians who made quick and vast profit in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse.

But Dr John R. Bryson, Professor of Enterprise and Economic Geography at the University of Birmingham, argues that the only way sanctions will deliver is if they have enough of an impact on everyday Russians.

Dr Bryson told “It is important to distinguish between Putin’s interests and the interests of the Russian people. These are two very different things.

“Putin wants to ensure that he creates a legacy as the great leader of the Russian people who was solely responsible for ensuring that Russia reclaimed superpower status.

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“But for the Russian people, the key issue is about everyday living conditions.

“There is an important point here in that Putin’s concern with Russia’s standing in international affairs deflects investment away from activities that would produce better outcomes for all Russian citizens.

Current sanctions implemented by European nations and the USA include a plan to block selected Russian banks from the global financial system, as well as personal sanctions against President Putin and his close associates.

Other sanctions of a more symbolic nature include removing the Champions League final from Russia and banning the country from the European Song Contest.

But Dr Bryson argues this doesn’t go anywhere near far enough – and the key to stopping President Putin lies with the Russian people.

He explained: “These sanctions are nowhere near the level needed to deter this type of illegal military action.

“The sanctions that are imposed must impact on every Russian citizen.
“The level and degree of impact required would be a tragedy for the Russian people.

“It is not enough, for example, to shift the location of the Champions League final.

“Money matters and foreign earnings are important for the Russian economy.

“Thus, effective sanctions are required that would disrupt and stop these flows.”

Many have argued that sanctions don’t go far enough because only select banks in Russia have been removed from the SWIFT financial system, through which a large portion of the world’s international transactions are made.

This would have a huge effect on the Russian economy – and even though discussions are underway between western powers whether to remove all Russian banks or not, it is unlikely one of its key banks – Gazprombank – would be included in the punishments.

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Gazprombank handles oil and gas exports and has been allowed to continue transactions in an attempt to limit the impact on European energy consumers.

Gazprombank has more than a 40 percent stake in Russia’s state-owned gas supplier Gazprom – which supplies much of Europe with its energy.

Dr Bryson argues that the key to destabilising Russia is in this industry, and would have a huge effect on the Russian populace – which the EU has been reluctant to tackle.

He explains: “Countries must agree to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas with immediate sanctions imposed on Russia’s energy sector.

“These sanctions must include all major Russian exports including wheat.

“It must be appreciated that such sanctions would impact directly on the Russian people, but they would also have extremely negative impacts on the global economy.

“This level of sanction would result in rapid energy and food price inflation, including energy shortages across Europe and elsewhere.

“Any attempt to reduce the impacts on the global economy would, however, ultimately encourage further conflict to occur either led by Russia or other countries.

“For sanctions to be effective they must have a major negative impact on the everyday lives of all Russian citizens.”

All in all, this amounts to a grim scenario for Russian consumers and businesses.

The economy is likely to plunge into recession, and many Russians are already experiencing the effects of the sanctions.

But as revenue from oil and gas exports will continue, it will sustain President Putin with enough funds to maintain the state’s security apparatus and put down unrest seen throughout Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

However, worsening personal economic circumstances might affect how more and more Russians view the war.

In the past, President Putin has tried to pass the blame for economic pain on to the West, but as recent protests throughout Russia have shown, the dictator could finally be held to account.

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