Simon Jenkins (The rouble is soaring and Putin is stronger than ever – our sanctions have backfired, 29 July) writes that sanctions “are meant to intimidate peoples into restraining their princes”. Throughout his piece he puts forward this very instrumentalist view of sanctions, but says not a word about the ethical component.
If you learned that a friend was engaging in deeply immoral behaviour, you may well confront them on it, and if they persist you may choose to distance yourself. I doubt if anyone would think that withholding friendship will force them to change; you just don’t want anything to do with them any more. You no longer operate in a shared moral universe.
I think there are a great number of people in this country who would rather suffer high fuel costs than buy Russian gas – on moral grounds. Of course, the problem with ethical sanctions is where to draw the line; if Russia, then why not Saudi Arabia, China or Israel? This is often a grey area, not least because we in the “enlightened west” are far from being morally pure. But invading a neighbouring country, unprovoked, is as unequivocal a violation of the international order as you can find, and it should not be tolerated, whatever the cost.
Mr Jenkins’ well-argued article misses the point. Although he correctly points out that “the interdependence of the world’s economies, so long seen as an instrument of peace, has been made a weapon of war”, he entirely misses the fact that the sanctions regime orchestrated against Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine is primarily targeted at breaking Russia’s interdependence – its supposed integration – in the world economy. Just as Angela Merkel foolishly believed integrating Russia into the world economy by importing its conveniently priced gas would reduce the threat, so now too many, Mr Jenkins included, fail to see that sanctions are effectively decoupling Russia from the world economy. The “cheap” energy from Russia has come at an enormous cost. But better to pay that cost now than to wait until Russia is eyeing Lithuania or Poland.
Keighley, West Yorkshire
When I was reading Simon Jenkins’ piece about the sanctions against Russia, my wife was crying about the 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war murdered in Russia’s shelling of Olenivka prison in the Donetsk region. Those were Azov servicemen, who defended Mariupol.
Mr Jenkins might be absolutely right about the economic price of sanctions, but this one-dimensional, gas-heated view misses something important. The sanctions are not just a tool to hammer Russia’s economy “back to the stone age”, but rather a way to demonstrate solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
Switching sanctions off while continuing weapon supplies? Come on, it is like treating a broken limb with painkillers, but not using any firm bandages. The situation is getting painful and more difficult to handle for Russia. The sanctions, combined with Ukrainian successes on the battlefield, make Russia more inclined towards peace talks. Here, 400km from the frontline, we see Russia losing face.
Since 24 February, Ukrainian citizens see the world in black and white. While our people die from Russian missiles, there’s no room for “Yes, but …” We just don’t get that. We have a right to ignore all those “buts”.
I would like to thank the UK for its help and pray that the conflict ends with our victory.