Instigator / Pro

Imposing sanctions on Russia by the West is not a good policy


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After not so many votes...

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Round 1
Phenenas, thank you for accepting the debate.  In this debate.  I want to argue in my position that sanctions on Russia imposed by the West are not reasonable and   good policy.  Since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in Feburuary,2022.  the U.S. and its allied countries of the West have been imposing sanctions on Russia. 
However, is it a reasonable policy not only for the world economy but for good and friendly relations among many countries of the world ? 
 The important point is that Russia has been cut off financial and economic transactions with rest of the world.  Under this situation, many European countries have been seriously damaged by the sanctions on Russia.  They have been dependent on energy sources like oil and gas imported  mainly from Russia. 
Poor supply of those sources has caused higher electricity charges and gas prices in industries and many homes.   Cost-push inflation damages them seriously.
 On the other hand, Russia is suffering from serious economic problems. First is that western companies which had been engaging in oil and gas business were urged 
to leave Russia. This caused mass unemployment in the country.  Second is that Russia has lost the power to get foreign currencies.  The main cause is the collapse of 
export activities by the economic sanction. 
 Many people in Russia express anger and hatred feelings toward the West and feel deeply shrinking the economy.   ``The lack of foreign capital, technology and know-how will substantially hamper the country`s future development.`` 1)   And ``perhaps most crippling in the long run has been the departure of a vast pool of 
talented and educated professionals. Hundreds of thousands of Russian I.T. specialists, teachers, academics, engineers and scientists now live in exile in Istanbul; Yerevan, Armenia; and Tashkent, Uzbekistan.``2) 
  It is true that Russia faces dire and unhopeful situation today. However, we must pay attention to the fact that there are loopholes concerning the sanction. 
 A number of countries are helping Russia survive desperately. For example, ``Turkey has become a major conduit for global businesses looking to sell to Russia, as long truck convoys snake through the mountain passes of the Caucasus.  Indian refineries and Singaporean oil storage firms are making hefty profits buying discounted Russian oil and selling it worldwide.   Through a host of intermediaries, Western - made microchips continue to end up in Russian helicopters and cruise 
missiles.  Small countries like Armenia and Kyrgyzstan are busy entrepots for smartphones, washing machines and other consumer goods being shipped to Russia.``3)       The most important thing is that we must learn from history. The war or military conflict might happen between the West which imposes severe sanctions on Russia and Russia which faces severe sanctions imposed by the West.   For example, in August 1941, the U.S. placed an embargo on oil export  to Japan.
This fueled the war between the U.S. and Japan. 4)  
From the arguments so far,  I believe that imposing sanctions on Russia by the West is not a good and reasonable policy from the viewpoint of keeping world peace 
without the threat of nuclear war. 

        References:  1),2) ,3)  Nicholas Mulder, `Ignoring the fallout for Ukraine,`  The New York Times International Edition, February 10, 2023
                                  4) Yoichi Funabashi, ` Economic sanctions are a powerful tool. But will they end the war ?` ,  The Japan Times, May 17, 2022.  

Thank you for your opening argument, greenplanet. I will be arguing that the sanctions on Russia are a good policy not only for the West, but for larger goals such as maintaining global peace. I will focus on making the affirmative case this round, and will use the final round to respond to my opponent’s specific points. My argument will be divided into 3 points:

1. Western Unity

On the eve of the Russian invasion,  commentators and analysts in Russia and in the West widely assumed that Putin’s forces would be able to capture Kyiv in a matter of weeks or days, and that the West would be too fractured and weak-willed to muster any real response. Putin himself, we are told, was assured this would happen by all his advisors. [1] Instead, the dictator quickly found his army bumping up against an iron wall of resistance, as nearly all the countries in the Western world, and many from beyond it, united to denounce and punish Russia, and rallied behind Ukraine to help them defend their national sovereignty.

Do my opponent and I agree that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a terrible act of aggression which deserves at least some form of resistance? I cannot say, since my opponent has not yet made any statement about the morality of the invasion itself. If we disagree, I would be happy to defend this further. But for now, I will take it as self-evident that it is wrong to invade another sovereign country for the purpose of taking their land. If the West was divided on whether or not to impose sanctions, or imposed no sanctions at all, it would confirm Vladimir Putin’s theory that he can bully and push Europe around all he likes with no consequences. It would be naïve to think that Putin’s territorial ambitions would be satisfied after annexing the Donbas. Instead, Putin received a very different diplomatic message: that the West is unified and strong. And it still holds strong over a year later.

2. Weakening Russia

Perhaps the main reason that sanctioning Russia is a good policy is for the simple reason of weakening Russia’s ability to wage war. A weakened economy, particularly a weakened energy sector, means a weakened military. And the more Russia’s military is weakened, the likelier they are give up on their war effort. It is a simple calculus of military strategy, which is why sanctions of some kind have been utilized in nearly every major conflict in the modern era.

This objective of the sanctions also seems to be working. By the end of 2022, the Russian economy had entered a deep recession, and oil and gas extraction ticked down by almost 3 percent since 2021 [2]. And since the EU officially banned Russian oil last month [3], the industry will only fall harder. Russia will have less fuel for trucks that bring in supplies for occupying troops, for tanks that roll through cities and destroy infrastructure, for drones that drop bombs on innocent civilians. My opponent seems to deeply empathize with the suffering of Russians who can no longer buy McDonald’s or Coca-Cola, but doesn’t spare a word for the Ukrainian civilians who were killed as a result of Russia’s onslaught, which so far numbers at least 8,000 [4].

It is true that, as its gas lines have been cut off from the West, Russia is now looking to sell its oil to China, India, Saudi Arabia, and other eastern countries that take a more neutral stance in this Western conflict. However, Russia’s economic growth has heavily depended on exporting oil to Europe, and now they are feeling the pain: their oil exports lowered by a fifth last month [5]. Pro paints Russia’s economic woes as if they’re a bad thing. Surely Russians see it as a bad thing. But from the larger perspective of world affairs and peace, it is good that the aggressor’s ability to wage war has been constrained. It would be foolish of the West to beg Russia to end this war, yet continue buying their oil and sending them the materials they need to keep the war machine churning.

3. Not Normalizing Aggression

While I was somewhat flippant about this in my last point, it’s true that Russia’s economic strife has ramifications for the lives of ordinary Russians, many of whom probably want nothing to do with this war. The same goes for regular people in other countries, particularly in Europe, who have watched the price of gas and other goods spike as a result of these sanctions. While I don’t much care about the suffering of the Russian government or military, there is something to be said about the effect of these sanctions on the lives of everyday people. But even the most rational decisions made by governments sometimes have negative effects on the lives of normal people; this is one of the harsh truths of international relations. And besides, if the West simply went on with “business as usual” and didn’t sanction Russia at all, working people might have saved a few euros at the gas pump, but the long-term consequences might have been disastrous on a global scale.

As I said earlier, sanctions are a part of modern conflict. If Country X aggressively invades Country Y, and this results in Country X becoming a pariah cut off from the world’s trade networks, not only will Country X be chastened, but other countries looking on will be sent a message: these are the consequences of aggressive military action. World peace is not a natural state, but something that has to be cultivated and constantly defended. Countries that violate international law must face consequences, or else aggression would become normalized on the world stage. If China sees that Russia can invade Ukraine with only a slap on the wrist, it will be all the more eager to invade Taiwan. India and Pakistan might be emboldened to pour troops into Kashmir, and come to blows. Russia itself would be much more likely to emerge victorious in Ukraine - and to then set its sights on Moldova, Georgia, the Suwałki Gap, or the Baltics. [6] If there is no international accountability, that makes World War III more likely, not less. This isn't theoretical: one only has to look at the previous World War to learn that Hitler's aggression was inspired and emboldened by the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and the League of Nations' ineffectual response [7]. We have learned our lesson that appeasement is not a good way to deal with dictators.

To summarize, these sanctions did not occur in a vacuum. If Russia wanted “good and friendly relations among many countries of the world”, it should not have invaded a sovereign nation. The blame for these sanctions lands squarely at the feet of the aggressor; the West’s response is simply holding them accountable. Can you imagine if, after Nazi Germany invaded Poland, the Allies just bent over and did nothing? Not that the two situations are exactly alike, but this seems to be where my opponent’s logic leads. Allowing violent imperialists to expand their borders with no consequences in the name of “world peace” would show us just how tenuous international law can be if there’s no one around to enforce it.

I now turn it over to Pro for their final response.

7. Thomson, David (1957) Europe Since Napoleon, London: Longans Green & Co. p. 691.

Round 2
In Round 1, Con presented  three arguments which consist of 3 points. In this Round I will respond to these three points. 
First is concerning `Western Unity.`  It seems to me that Con blames the behavior and action of Russia.  Con argues that ``I can not say, since my opponent has not made any statement about the morality of the invasion itself.``  And  Con continues to argue that ``I will  take it as self-evident that it is wrong to invade another sovereign country for the purpose of taking their land.`` It seems to me that the important point is ``the morality of the invasion itself.`` 
I believe that Russia should not be blamed. Russia has the legitimacy and the morality of the invasion of Ukraine.  Looking back on the history, the U.S. ,and European countries proposed strongly the participation of Ukraine in NATO as a member of the organization.  This idea of the expansion of NATO into far eastern parts of Europe without holding talks with Russia fueled the threat and anger of the president , Putin. Poor diplomacy and the lack of dialog with Russia by the West should be blamed.
 Jeffrey Sachs argues that ``from the Kremlin`s perspective, NATO`s presence in Ukraine would pose a direct threat to Russia`s security. Much of Soviet statecraft was designed to create geographical buffer between Russia and the Western powers. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has vociferously opposed NATO`s  enlargement into the former Soviet bloc.`` 1)  

  Second is concerning `Weaking Russia`.  Con argues in this section that an embargo on oil and materials  export to Russia by the West contribute to weaking Russian economy and military power. So, Con stresses that imposing sanctions on Russia is a good policy.  I partly agree with Con`s argument. 
However, Russia has economic transactions with its allied countries such as Iran, Cuba, Syria, Myanmar, North Korea and Venezuela. Those allied countries of Russia are well prepared to support and cooperate with Russia. They have been taking a diplomacy against the West  for a long time. Some of them are shown in the action and behavior of Iran and North Korea.  So, as I pointed out in Round 1, sanctions have loopholes. Therefore, I believe that imposing sanctions on Russia are not necessarily to eliminate the aggressor`s  ability to wage war and to weak Russian economy.    Daniel Flatley argues that ``measures that were intended to corral countries back into Washington`s  rules-based order could end up spurring them to draft their own set of rules instead.``2) 
Ending this section, I hope peace and stability will resume in Ukraine with economic aid offering by the West. 

Section 3 is concerning ` Not Normalizing Aggression`.  Con argues that ` sanctions are a part of modern conflict`.  This is right. The most important thing is that 
we must prevent hot war from waging  between Russia and the West. As Con stresses, `` how tenuous international law can be.`` 
Therefore,  cool head and warm heart are urgently required for Putin  to end the war Between Russia and Ukraine. 

Following are my last presentation. We must keep in mind that ``sanctions are ultimately a sideshow in deciding the outcome of this war.``3) 
 Kaushik Basu, who was a former chief economist of the World Bank, argues that ``the severe sanctions that the West has imposed on Russia may be justified to defeat Putin, but they have escalated economic warfare to an unprecedented level. Just as we have rules governing conventional warfare, such as a prohibition on 
targeting civilians, we will need to create rules for what is permitted and what is forbidden in economic conflict.``4) 

   Now, I turn it over to Con for their final response.      

 References: 1) Jeffrey D. Sachs, `How to protect Ukraine and its sovereignty,` The Japan Times, February 10, 2022.
                              2) Daniel Flatley, `Biden`s economic tactics are failing to stop Russia,`   The Japan Times, February 28, 2023.
                              3) `Biden`s economic tactics are failing to stop Russia`.
                              4)  Kaushik Basu, ` Globalization and the new art of economic warfare`,  The Japa Times, April 5,2022. 

Thank you for your closing argument, Pro. Now I will present my closing argument and respond to those points of Pro which I have not yet addressed. Then I will make a brief closing statement.

In response to my point “Western Unity”, Pro makes a series of unsubstantiated claims which could have been directly lifted from Russian state television. They state “I believe that Russia should not be blamed. Russia has the legitimacy and the morality of the invasion of Ukraine.” The false equivalency of “NATO expansion” fails to take into account the fact that countries are voluntarily joining NATO rather than being forcibly annexed, as Russia is trying to do with Ukraine. And given that NATO countries such as Poland, Hungary, Czechia, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Germany all have experience with invasion and occupation by a hostile foreign power, namely Russia, within the past century, it makes total sense to any neutral observer why a country would rationally want the protection offered by NATO membership.

“This idea of the expansion of NATO into far eastern parts of Europe without holding talks with Russia fueled the threat and anger of the president , Putin. Poor diplomacy and the lack of dialog with Russia by the West should be blamed.”
Why should Russia have any say over the actions of countries that have been independent for decades? My opponent’s logic is distinctly bent towards an imperialist mindset: because Russia is a larger and more powerful country, it should be able to dictate what other countries do. Because several eastern European countries were once ruled over by Russia, it should be able to override their independence. The idea that NATO expanded “without holding talks” is another of Putin's many fictions. In 1994, Russia joined the Partnership for Peace with NATO, and in 1997 the NATO-Russia Founding Act [1] was signed, a roadmap for cooperation between the two powers which, in hindsight, was overly optimistic. And even if these talks hadn't occurred, the burden would be on my opponent to explain why Russia gets to override the national sovereignty of other countries.

As for the assertion that poor diplomacy from the West should be blamed for this war, that’s like a serial killer saying that he should not be blamed for his killings; the real culprit is the lack of proper mental healthcare in America. Maybe he has a point, that the structure of the society he was born into may have contributed to his mental insanity, and if society was different, he might not have taken a single life. But he is still the aggressor, the blood is still on his hands, and no courtroom would accept this as an excuse. Perhaps Putin did feel that invading Ukraine was his only option, given his nostalgia for Soviet imperialism. This does not change the fact that he violated international law [2] by sending his army to kill, torture, and rape thousands of Ukrainians, or be killed themselves.

The topic of who is to blame for the war is inherently contentious and opinion-based, and if this debate were to last even 50 rounds, Pro and I would never come to an agreement on it. So let’s return to the resolution. Pro’s arguments for why NATO caused the war are simply statements of opinion which I have responded to in kind. Moreover, the idea that NATO expansion led to Russian aggression still doesn’t disprove my point that Russia are the aggressors who initiated the war and hold the sole power to end it, and therefore they are the ones who must be pressured to deescalate the conflict. Which is why I emphasized the importance of Western unity and strength, a point that still stands.

Pro did respond to my second point, arguing that Russia will recover from its economic ties with the West being severed, because they will be replaced with ties with such economic powerhouses as North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela. It is hardly a safe bet that relations with a fractured country in the middle of a civil war, a country in the middle of an economic crisis marked by widespread poverty and hyperinflation [3], and a country with what has been described as “the world’s worst economy” [4] will be adequate replacements for relations with the highly-developed, wealthy West. Even to take my opponent’s better example, Iran, and adding on China and India would not change the fact that the West cutting ties with Russia led to a massive downturn in their economy, as I used statistics to demonstrate in Round 1. My point still stands that these sanctions have put economic pressure on Russia to end the war.

Pro did not really respond to my third point at all. He says “The most important thing is that we must prevent hot war from waging  between Russia and the West.” This I would agree with - however, he has ignored my larger point that the best way to prevent a hot war is to ensure Russia comes away from this conflict wounded and chastened. If Russia feels like it has gained something from this war, or come out of it stronger, it will do it again, perhaps with some other country. Negotiating a peace deal that would cede part of Ukraine to Russia would only reward and create incentive for aggression, not only for Russia, but for other potential aggressors around the world. Putin cannot hold a nuclear gun to the world’s head and make demands. That is not “cool-headed” nor “warm-hearted”. I made this same point about sanctions, which again, my opponent did not respond to.

Pro also advances some new points, one, a quote which states that sanctions are a “sideshow” to deciding the outcome of the war. I argued that they are important to deciding the outcome of the war, and made specific points as to why, most of which Pro has not responded to. The second, another quote which states that the sanctions have “escalated economic warfare to an unprecedented level”. Just because something is unprecedented doesn’t make it bad, and the same quote admits that the sanctions “may be justified to defeat Putin”. And I would argue there’s nothing unprecedented about it; it is a difference of degree, not kind. Nor do sanctions always lead to war, as Pro suggests, citing the US’s oil embargo on Japan. The United States and the Soviet Union sanctioned each other many times, off-and-on, and war never broke out between them. South Africa and Iran have also been sanctioned with no war breaking out. Sanctions have long been envisioned as a tool to prevent war; Woodrow Wilson described sanctioning as “an absolute isolation…that brings a nation to its senses just as suffocation removes from the individual all inclinations to fight…Apply this economic, peaceful, silent, deadly remedy and there will be no need for force. It is a terrible remedy. It does not cost a life outside of the nation boycotted, but it brings a pressure upon that nation which, in my judgment, no modern nation could resist.” [5]

Pro also mentions that the sanctions have “loopholes”. It would be one thing to argue that these loopholes make the sanctions ineffective, but Pro doesn’t do this, he simply states that the loopholes exist. However, the sanctions have been getting tighter and tighter over time, not the other way around. Of course there will be loopholes after only a year of rapidly changing international policy, but “year two will be focused on sealing the cracks” [6], as the US will be clamping down on offshore companies that manage to skirt around the rules. I should also mention, with this point and the point about Russia’s eastern relations, Pro seems to be suggesting that the sanctions are ineffective and Russia’s economy will be fine, which is in total contradiction to their earlier point that “Russia is suffering from serious economic problems”.

Closing Statement

I have made the case that, because Russia is the aggressor in the conflict and they possess the sole power to end this war which has caused so much suffering, pressure must be put on them to end it. Pro argues that Russia's aggression was provoked by NATO, but this does not actually contradict the previous sentence, nor does it have real relevance to the resolution. I have argued that sanctions have been used as a tool of pressure to end the war: of political pressure, by demonstrating Western unity and turning Russia into a pariah, and of economic pressure, by stifling Russia’s economy and war machine. I have also argued that if the sanctions end up weakening Russia, this is a good thing, because punishing aggressors, no matter their excuse or grievance, is an core tenet of international law. In my estimation, Pro’s arguments have been weaker, overly relying on quotes and assertions, and have not adequately responded to my arguments.

Pro has not suggested any alternatives of what should be done instead of sanctions. Nor is it easy to discern what Pro thinks would be an equitable solution to this war. One may disagree with my position, but at least I have grounded my arguments with clear concepts such as national sovereignty and international relations. Pro has also given self-contradictory reasons for why they are bad: first they’re bad because they work too well, then they’re bad because they don’t work. Pro does not give us any convincing reason to believe that sanctions are bad for the world.

That’s it for my closing statement. Thank you for making this debate, Pro, and now we can leave it up to the voters to decide whose arguments were more convincing.

2. Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter