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The Function of Sanctions

On The UW Now Livestream, political science professor Mark Copelovitch discusses the war in Ukraine and the effect that sanctions are having on Russia and the world economy.

John Allen
August 01, 2022

Five months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the war drags on: Russia didn’t achieve the lightning strike to victory that president Vladimir Putin seems to have expected, but neither has Ukraine expelled the Russian army. The Western democracies quickly levied sanctions against Russia — “not just symbolic sanctions,” says Mark Copelovitch, “but sanctions with teeth” — but the war continues. Copelovitch, a professor in the UW’s Department of Political Science and the La Follette School of Public Affairs, is an expert in international relations and international political economy. He will appear on The UW Now Livestream on August 2 to discuss the current state of the war and the effect that the sanctions regime is having.

Chief Area of Research

I study the intersection of international politics and international economics. My research and teaching focus on the politics of international trade, money, and finance. I focus on the political conflict domestically over economic and foreign policies and the related political conflict internationally between states and governments. For example, with Ukraine, how should the West respond? What sorts of sanctions [should the West employ]? The German government and the French government and the U.S. government have different preferences over that, as do many people within each of those countries. So I’m very much focused on the study of the world economy, but on the politics of decision-making within and across countries.

On The UW Now, I’ll Discuss:

My role is to discuss the economic and the global political impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. I’ll start quickly just by talking about the scope of the humanitarian and economic disaster in Ukraine, and then focus a lot on the damage to the Russian economy. The sanctions from the U.S. and the EU and the West have really had the expected devastating effects on the Russian economy, and I’ll talk in some detail about what that looks like. Then I’ll switch gears a little bit and zoom out and think about the global economic impact in terms of the economic slowdown we’re now seeing globally and rising inflation and the impact on oil and gas prices and food prices, some of the broader global spillovers from the war, as well as the global political impact.

One Thing I’d Like Viewers to Remember Is:

The big one that I’m going to talk about, really, is the sanctions are working, and the sanctions are having a major negative impact on Russia’s economy. The thing about sanctions is they are not a substitute for military intervention. You hear in the news that, while the war is still going on, the sanctions aren’t working. They’re doing exactly what they were supposed to do, which is to cut Russia off from the global economy, have devastating economic impact, and reduce its capacity to fight a war. That is what we’ve seen. That’s going to continue to happen. 

To Get Smart Fast, Read:

One of the people that I follow on Twitter is Matthew Klein, a journalist who has a Substack called The Overshoot. He used to be a journalist for Barron’s and the Financial Times. It’s a really great, data-driven site for following developments on the global economy, about inflation, about the effect of sanctions, about Russia’s economy, about unemployment and GDP, and whether we’re in a recession. As a scholar, I like really good, data-driven journalism, and this is a really great site. Klein’s writing is some of the best that’s out there.

Specifically on the sanctions, several of the slides I’m going to show are from a presentation from the Yale School of Management that Jeffrey Sonnenfeld just made available, a paper and a slide deck detailing exactly what’s happened with the Russian economy in terms of inflation, the decline in manufacturing, the drop in exports to Russia, especially on manufactured goods, the non-substitution toward China.

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