By John Ikani
Sanctions are penalties imposed by one country on another to stop them acting aggressively or breaking international law. They often target a country’s economy.
Amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, western countries joined the US in slamming numerous sanctions on Russia.
The measures designed to damage Russia’s economy include ban on Import of military goods and mercenaries from Russia, flight bans, ban on exports to Russia, sanctions on Russian oligarchs, ban on Russian oil and gas exports, among other financial measures.
While the crippling sanctions seem overwhelmingly capable of bringing an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine, hindsight says the odds of using such measures to achieve results are slim.
Here are four examples of previously imposed sanctions and their consequences.
USA vs Netherlands (1948-1949):
After World War II, the Dutch East Indies (today’s Indonesia) was seeking independence from its colonial power – The Netherlands. When the Dutch arrested leaders of the independence movement, the US suspended Dutch post-war aid. The Dutch economy suffered and the threat of more sanctions forced them to agree to Indonesia’s independence in 1949.
International vs Iran (1979-onwards):
The US, UN and others have sanctioned Iran for years for its nuclear programme and support for designated terrorist groups. Western sanctions have made Iran’s economy suffer, but the country is able to survive in spite of them.
The survival is partly because Iran has gotten used to sanctions over the decade. Also, Iran has a diversified economy with many different industries and trading partners like China who continue to trade with them.
International vs South Africa (1960s-1990s):
Dozens of countries sanctioned South Africa for its apartheid policies of racial segregation. Economic pressure was a major factor in Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and a multi racial democratic election in 1994.
International vs Venezuela (2014-onwards)
The US, EU and others have sanctioned individuals like President Maduro for corruption and abuse of power. Venezuela’s political and economic crisis have dragged on for years.
The country’s inflation hit 800,000% in 2019, and the Covid-19 pandemic only made things worse. Yet, President Maduro hasn’t backed down.
Sanctions don’t always go on as planned but short of going to war, they are still the most powerful tool a country can use.