Sanctions Often Ineffective at Swaying Politics, Says U of G Trade Expert

While Canada and many other western nations are moving quickly to impose sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, a University of Guelph trade and policy research says it is likely only average Russians the sanctions will hurt. 

Dr. Sylvanus Kwaku Afesorgbor

Dr. Sylvanus Kwaku Afesorgbor is a professor in U of G’s Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics who researches international trade and globalization and has examined how trade sanctions have affected political outcomes.

In a Conversation Canada commentary he recently co-authored with economics professor Peter A.G. van Bergeijk from the International Institute of Social Studies, Afesorgbor writes that history has shown that economic sanctions seldom coerce nations to stand down from military interventions. 

As the pair explain, several attempts to use trade sanctions to sway Russia – and the USSR before it – failed to have much effect. They point to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the annexation of Crimea in 2014 as clear examples that sanctions made little difference. 

Instead, they write, ordinary Russians will likely be the ones to bear the brunt of the ever-increasing trade sanctions. 

“Although western sanctions are unlikely to force Putin to abort his invasion of Ukraine, Russian citizens will certainly be hurt,” they write. Afesorgbor’s own research on the effect of sanctions on dozens of countries in the last half century has shown that the measures do little more than restrict access to food and medicinesexacerbate income inequalities and adversely affect food security

“As the world rightfully fears for the Ukrainian people, we must not turn a blind eye to Russians, who are also Putin’s victims,” he writes. 

Afesorgbor is available for interviews. 

Contact: 

Dr. Sylvanus Kwaku Afesorgbor 
safesorg@uoguelph.ca