Are sanctions working?

When allied military operations go well or badly, we very quickly hear about them. But what about sanctions? It is about time that we started to ask: are they hitting their target, or are some of them slewing off, out of control, straight into civilian targets? Notionally, sanctions have been a success – or at least they seemed to be initially. The rouble and Russian stock market collapsed. But then the rouble recovered strongly, and the stock market, too, has staged some sort of recovery since it reopened. What seemed like a pretty comprehensive boycott by western companies turns out to be rather less complete than many might imagine.  The

The rouble’s astonishing recovery

The tank columns are stalled; one or two towns captured from the Ukrainians have been retaken. Russia’s war effort has been going nowhere fast for the past fortnight – unless you count the constant pounding and destruction of apartment blocks a form of progress. But then is the economic war being waged against Russia making any greater progress? True, Muscovites can no longer get a Big Mac, and western-made luxury goods have disappeared from the shelves. Yet look at the dollar’s march against the rouble and it is starting to look like a convoy of Russian armoured vehicles. For the first few days, the rouble sank inexorably as sanctions kicked in.

‘Staying Switzerland’ on Ukraine is impossible

The striking thing about the financial sanctions on Russia is not their severity, but just how many countries are joining in the effort. Switzerland has today announced that it will adopt the EU sanctions on Russia, particularly significant because it has been the biggest recipient of private transfers by Russians in recent years. The fact that such a traditionally neutral country is imposing sanctions will deepen the wedge between Putin and the rest of the ruling elite. Meanwhile in Asia, Japan, South Korea and Singapore have signed on to the economic measures on Russia. Their willingness to do this is as much about Taiwan as Ukraine; they know that China is

To hurt Putin, go for oil and gas – not Swift

Both the British and the Americans have been explicit that it is the Europeans who are blocking Russia being cut from Swift. Removing Russia would be a sound step, but it is far less important than a western agreement not to buy Russian oil and gas would be. Sadly, though, there is little chance of this happening — too many countries are dependent on Russian gas — which means $700 million a day will continue to flow into Moscow, strengthening the Kremlin’s belief that it can ride out whatever sanctions are imposed on it. Depressing as this may be, there are things the UK can do using domestic law that would inflict pain

Kate Andrews

Is Britain prepared for the cost of sanctions?

Sanctions hit both sides: this is a point that Joe Biden has made to Americans and Olaf Scholz is making to Germans. But Boris Johnson is not (so far) talking about the economic implications of this war. They will be — and in fact, already are — profound.  When Russian tanks moved into Ukraine, the price of gas for next-day delivery in the UK shot up 40 per cent. A study by Investec yesterday suggested this means typical household energy bills — already expected to approach £2,000 in April — could end up closer to £3,000. Quite a hit for a country already facing a cost-of-living crisis. And this is just

Sanctions won’t stop Putin

The Lithuanian prime minister, Ingrida Šimonyte, put it well yesterday: ‘the way we respond will define us for the generations to come’. The invasion of Ukraine started last night with Vladimir Putin’s order to send troops into eastern Ukraine. He had earlier recognised the breakaway provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, which together constitute the Donbas region, as independent republics. The two self-proclaimed states declared their independence — something neither Kiev nor any other third country save Russia has yet recognised — following 2014 following the Maidan revolution. The US, UK and EU say they will announce fresh sanctions as early as today. What we know is that the technicalities have been

Beijing’s cruel attempt to stop fleeing Hongkongers

The Chinese Communist party regime likes to portray itself as the new superpower, displaying its strength on the world stage. In reality it is an extraordinarily fragile, sensitive, fearful, petty and vindictive snowflake of a dictatorship that is so surprisingly un-self-confident that it responds to any criticism with aggression, any dissenting or disloyal idea with repression, and any perceived slight with tit-for-tat retaliation. We have seen this last week with the decision by Beijing to impose sanctions on nine British citizens — politicians, lawyers and an academic — and four entities, including the Conservative party Human Rights Commission, which I co-founded and serve as deputy chair. And we have seen this same

Why does China think it can bully backbench MPs like me?

Does the Chinese Communist Party understand how our parliamentary democracy works? The evidence from the last 24 hours suggests not. Along with some of my Conservative colleagues in the House of Commons – Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Tim Loughton, Tom Tugendhat and Neil O’Brien – as well as two peers, a QC and an academic, I have been banned from entering China, had any assets in China frozen (not that I have any there) and have had Chinese citizens and institutions prohibited from doing business with me. All because I have voiced well-evidenced concerns about the persecution of the Uyghur Muslim minority by the Chinese government. The Beijing authorities, in

James Forsyth

MPs facing Chinese sanctions deserve our solidarity

The sanctions that China is imposing on various politicians, academics and think tanks in the democratic world are designed to intimidate. Their aim is to make people, and particularly firms, think twice about criticising China over its human rights record and in particular its treatment of the Uighurs. Last night, China slapped sanctions on a bunch of British parliamentarians, and some academics, in retaliation for Britain putting sanctions on four Chinese officials working on the Xinjiang internment policy. It is imperative that this country stands behind these individuals and groups. We cannot allow a situation where China can determine the contours of debate in this country. Boris Johnson should immediately

Russian sanctions are futile

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Joe Biden promised to approach Russia and its irascible President Vladimir Putin with a new sense of toughness and purpose. Now calling the shots in the White House, President Biden appears to have made good on that promise — at least symbolically. On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced several sets of sanctions against Moscow for last summer’s attempted assassination of the Russian activist Alexei Navalny, a plot that involved the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok. The sanctions, taken in concert with the European Union’s own measures, included asset freezes and travel bans on seven Russian officials deemed responsible for the poisoning, imprisonment, and prosecution of Navalny.

Britain’s Magnitsky sanctions will hit Putin where it hurts

It’s rare for a Government minister to make an announcement that is universally welcomed in the House of Commons. But that’s exactly what happened on Monday, when the foreign secretary Dominic Raab introduced long-awaited sanctions against human-rights abusers. Raab’s announcement appeared on the Commons’ Order Paper under the rather mundane title ‘Introduction of the Global Human Rights sanctions regime’, but what he said will have far-reaching consequences. The measures Raab announced include asset freezes and travel bans against individuals who not only commit human-rights abuses but also those who benefit and profit from them. The names of such individuals will be made public, in a so-called ‘Magnitsky List’. The measures