EU sanctions on Russia: Overview, impact, challenges

Briefing 10-03-2023

EU sanctions on Russia explained

Outraged by Russia's illegal and unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, European Union countries swiftly adopted unprecedentedly tough sanctions, in close cooperation with partners including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Japan. The rapid succession of ten packages of EU sanctions adopted since then, in what has already been labelled a 'sanctions revolution', have resulted in an unparalleled set of measures targeting the key sectors of the Russian economy and the political elites. New sanctions have also been adopted against Belarus and Iran, in response to their involvement in Russia's war of aggression. The unprecedented nature of the sanctions imposed against Russia, in scale and scope, has created new implementation challenges, in particular for the EU. Member States and EU institutions have renewed efforts to make alignment truly global, and to close loopholes to prevent circumvention. In November 2022, the violation of 'restrictive measures' (sanctions) was added to the list of 'EU crimes' included in the Treaties. Despite the challenges, analysts consider that sanctions have already met three important objectives: they have sent the Kremlin a strong signal of Western resolve and unity, they have permanently degraded Russia's military capabilities, and they are asphyxiating its economy and energy sector, with long-term consequences. However, most experts warn that the impact of sanctions will not be severe enough to limit Russia's ability to wage war against Ukraine in 2023. The non-alignment of a significant number of countries has also evidenced divergent global perceptions of the stakes and priorities ahead. Since Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol in 2014, the European Parliament has been a vocal advocate of severe sanctions. Parliament has unequivocally condemned Russia's unjustified aggression against Ukraine, and has since demanded broader and better-enforced sanctions, including a secondary sanctions mechanism, as well as the confiscation of Russian assets frozen by the EU to pay for Ukraine's reconstruction. On 23 November 2022, Parliament adopted a resolution recognising Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.