The sanctions against Russia still have holes. Here’s how to plug them

The United States and other democracies around the world rightly responded to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine by imposing new sanctions on Russia’s financial system, oil and gas exports, and certain individuals. These sanctions are more comprehensive than any other effort undertaken by the free world against a dictatorship the size of Russia.
They have certainly weakened the Russian economy. But only the most optimistic believed that sanctions would persuade Putin to change his mind and withdraw his army from Ukraine. Instead, the purpose of these sanctions should be to limit Russia’s capacity to wage this war against Ukraine — to compel, not persuade, Putin to end his invasion. To date, there have been some successes, but the experience of the past six months also shows that there is much more to be done. We have several suggestions for measures that we think are worth taking.

Targeted export controls on sensitive technology have proved especially effective by limiting Russia’s ability to replenish precision weaponry. Over time, this disruption of sophisticated technology components, including first and foremost chips that Russia cannot make, will weaken Moscow’s military capabilities.

Now the democratic world must impose additional import restrictions on technologies such as aircraft parts, sonar systems, antennas, spectrophotometers, test equipment, GPS systems, vacuum pumps and oil-field equipment. Russia should be completely unable to obtain any high-tech imports, as ultimately most technology is dual-use. Any technology that helps the Russian economy also helps Putin kill more Ukrainians.

Over the long run, the exodus of tens of thousands of Russian high-tech workers triggered by Putin’s war also will further diminish Russia’s military industrial base. Moving forward, the West should do more to facilitate a massive Russian brain drain. Democratic countries should make it easier to accept Russian immigrants with technological expertise through a variety of residency and economic incentives. Europe and the United States must also make it easier for political and media opponents to Putin’s regime to immigrate, to help further divide Putin from the Russian people.

Sanctions also have interrupted foreign direct investment, causing food, drug and material shortages. Impressively, roughly a thousand foreign companies have exited Russia; most will never come back. This doesn’t just affect the range of available goods and services; it will also diminish technology transfer and innovation in a wide range of industries throughout Russia, especially in the energy sector.

But more should be done. Democratic governments must put more pressure on their companies that have not left Russia yet. Foreign enterprises helping Putin’s war machine, even through the simple act of paying taxes, should face sanctions, too. The international community also should compel countries such as Turkey, Georgia and Kazakhstan — which are currently helping to bypass existing sanctions — to halt ongoing smuggling operations.

Sanctions on Russian individuals have produced real and lasting results. The lengths to which Russian oligarchs have gone to circumvent or get off the sanctions list suggest that sanctions are working.

Expanding and sustaining sanctions will be costly to the United States, Canada and Europe. But this is the price we must pay for decades of failure to act against Putin’s authoritarian and imperial ways. Fortunately, nations of the free world pay this cost solely with money; Ukrainians are paying with blood.
By Garry Kasparov


Garry Kasparov is chairman of the Renew Democracy Initiative and the Human Rights Foundation. Michael McFaul is director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, a Hoover fellow at Stanford University and a contributing columnist to The Post.

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