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4 things to know about the proposed sanctions against Russia

The US and UK have doubled down on their threats to include personal measures targeting Putin if Russia attacks Ukraine.

Western powers have upped the stakes against Russia as the crisis in Ukraine escalates.

Washington and some of its European allies have threatened myriad sanctions against Moscow, including measures that personally target Russian President Vladimir Putin, should it decide to move in on Ukraine.

They have harboured such fears for months, ever since Russia started its troop buildup along the border.

Here are the sanctions facing Russia if it attacks Ukraine.

What are the proposed Western sanctions?

Financial, but not just that.

On the money end of things, Western powers could cut Russia out of the SWIFT financial system.

This would effectively end Russia’s ability to send and receive money from abroad because SWIFT is what moves money from bank to bank, so this move could damage Russia’s economy immediately and in the long term.

Second, and also extreme, the US could obstruct Russia’s access to US dollars – the global reserve currency that dominates international transactions. Those dollar transactions are cleared through the US financial system, so if Washington throws up barriers, Russia can’t settle those transactions.

Finally, Western allies could limit Russia’s access to technologies that are needed to, among other things, make aeroplanes fly and smartphones work.

Which countries have threatened sanctions?

The US and the UK are at the forefront of the battle to stymie Russia by means other than warfare.

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday said Western allies were unanimous as far as going after Moscow should it decide to invade Ukraine. He also introduced the idea of sanctions that personally hit Putin – a call the UK later echoed.

INTERACTIVE- Where are Russian troops stationed

Earlier in the week, UK Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said there would be “very serious consequences if Russia takes this move to try and invade but also install a puppet regime”.

Separately, US Republican Senator Ted Cruz previously failed in his bid to sanction Russia’s Nord Stream 2 project with Germany, which Washington fears Moscow will use to increase its leverage in Europe. In recent days, Germany has said the project could be affected if Russia attacks Ukraine.

When would sanctions be imposed, and how?

It is uncertain when and how sanctions would go into effect.

In fact, this seems to be the crux of the problem, as several Western allies appear to be in disagreement over what exactly constitutes an aggression against Ukraine.

Some have argued that a cyberattack, the kind of which Ukraine has recently witnessed, is casus belli while others, wary of getting into conflict with Russia, affirm that anything short of a military escalation does not meet the threshold for a response.

For many countries, especially those that border Russia, this could harm the bloc’s deterrence credibility and further embolden Moscow.

In terms of the European Union’s guidelines, all 27 member nations must agree on the sanctions for them to go ahead, and measures should be first discussed with Washington and the bloc’s Western partners.

How would Russia be impacted?

Russia’s economy would take a hard hit.

Politically, its claim to staving off NATO’s expansion would also be taken less seriously.

Some analysts, however, contend that Russia has already achieved some of its goals by raising to prominence the issue of NATO’s presence along its borders.

For a more detailed analysis on whether US sanctions can sway Putin’s thinking, click here.


Members of Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv [Efrem Lukatsky/AP]

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