In response to the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea in late February of 2014, the United States, the EU, and their allies have slapped numerous sanctions on Russian officials and businesses. The idea is that these will persuade Russian leaders to change policy, but frankly this will not work.
While sanctions caused the value of the Ruble to plummet and the prices of food to skyrocket, they failed to weaken the Putin administration. On the contrary, they seemed to have strengthened it. As reported in The Guardian, President Putin’s approval ratings have soared from the low 60’s just two years ago to a whopping 89 percent in June.
How could this dramatic rise in popularity be possible when the Russian economy is failing and the standards of living for the average Russian are dropping at an exponential rate? Since Napoleon’s invasion in 1812 to Hitler’s double cross during WWII – which cost the Soviet Union over 26 million lives – foreign invaders have stormed through Russia, causing mass mayhem and destroying countless Russian lives.
You know what happened next; the Russian-backed invasion of Crimea and the loss of over 6,000 innocent lives followed by Western sanctions on the perceived perpetrators. However, these sanctions have actually emboldened the Russian government. Putin uses them as proof of Western aggression against the Russian people, giving him credibility to the claims that it was the West that started the war in eastern Ukraine. Just like they did during the Cold War, the Russian government has successfully drummed up public support with nationalistic rhetoric, calling for unity in times of hardship and in the face of foreign aggression. The patriotic Russian people have fallen in line with their government in hopes that Russia will persevere. These sanctions have not and will not weaken Moscow. They are empowering it.