From an entrepreneur who would like to continue buying wood from Belarus, to a 12-year-old boy who wanted to know how to stop a war like this. The editors were asked many questions. Choice.
Can sanctions stop the war, and thus this war against Russia?
“No. We have no evidence that this is possible and I don’t think it ever happened,” De Wijk said in a broadcast. “But it’s crazy that the EU has formulated that as a goal; Europe wants to use these sanctions to ensure Russia’s withdrawal.” But that will not happen due to sanctions, the professor believes.
Not because sanctions mean little, otherwise. Sanctions against banks are particularly severe. Just like the ones on the computer chips. “As a result, it is impossible to make advanced weapons. The production of a large aircraft cannot be completed. This sanction greatly affects the entire high-tech industry in Russia.”
Russia’s war treasury will be affected by sanctions, but not so much that Russia’s fight will be stopped in the short term.
Isn’t stopping oil and gas imports the shortest way to ending the war?
The damage to the Russian economy would indeed increase significantly, but the Russians still have enough reserves to continue the war, De Wijk says. Moreover, Russia already sells gas to other countries, such as India and China. “You have to understand: these sanctions are imposed by 40 countries. And 150 countries are not.”
In addition, ‘we would cut our fingers horribly’ to close the gas tap now, the professor says. After all, inflation is already skyrocketing, largely due to high gas prices. If that price goes up even more, “I have yet to see how the Dutch population will react to this,” De Wijk says.
Are sanctions related to ultimatums?
No, and that would actually be reasonable, says De Wijk. “A lot of research has been done on when sanctions work. And one of the important things is that you really associate them with an ultimatum.”
For example, you can link a package of sanctions to a ceasefire. If the Russians stop fighting, the sanctions will be lifted.
Sanctions are now mostly used as a punitive measure, for example for crimes in the Ukrainian city of Butya, but do not ensure an end to the fighting.
“In my opinion, these are no longer sanctions, but an economic war. The Americans just want to destroy the Russian financial system.”
Will sanctions really affect Putin?
No, Putin himself is not affected by these sanctions. Russian citizens, on the other hand, work. De Wijk: “If you look at the forecasts, the Russian economy will shrink by 15 percent. Shelves, even diapers, are starting to disappear, so that’s a really big problem.”
The fact that the ruble is falling in value is also very damaging to the Russian wallet.
The West is trying to hit Putin by putting his circle of acquaintances – the oligarchs – on the sanctions list. But those rich Russians will not be completely surprised by the punitive measures. Since 2014, the EU has already imposed sanctions due to the annexation of Crimea, after which rich Russians began to move their money.
Can the money from the oligarchs be used to rebuild Ukraine?
Not at the moment, says sanctions lawyer Yvo Amar. “The idea is not that the oligarchs can be deprived of their property in the end. You have to return it in the end, depending on when the sanction is lifted.”
The House of Representatives will examine whether the property can be used for renovation.
In addition, it is being considered whether the money of the Russian central bank, which was frozen by the American government, can be used for the reconstruction of Ukraine. But the possible consequences of such a move are significant, de Wijk said. “If you do, you will also undermine trust in the United States, for example.”
If sanctions will not stop the war, then what will?
“In theory, you could send a huge army that is much stronger than the Russian, but we’re not ready for that, because it’s going to cost too many lives on the west side,” De Wijk says. Moreover, the West does not want to risk a nuclear war.
So, for now, they will chat, the professor thinks. A solution must ultimately be found at the negotiating table between Zelensky and Putin, but it could take time.
For example, if Zelensky does not want to give up the eastern region of Donbass, something the Russians want, then there is a ‘frozen conflict’. “There is a stalemate, nothing happens and every now and then the conflict flares up again. Just like in the Crimea. It can take up to twenty years,” says De Wijk.
Dutch entrepreneurs are therefore not yet free of the current sanctions, Amar concludes. “It’s still very difficult to do business with Russia.”