Chart of the Day: Why US Economic Sanctions on Russia Won’t Have Much Impact


My view of economic sanctions has been strongly influenced by Dan Drezner, who tells us (if I can oversimplify for the sake of a blog post) that they basically don’t work. That’s not an ironclad rule, and there are certain situations where they tend to have some effect. However, one of the primary conditions for success is that the sanctions be broadly applied. If it’s just one country, they almost never work. The target of the sanctions will simply bear the loss and increase its trade with other partners.

This is especially apropos to our current situation with Russia. Our ability to impose sanctions is limited to begin with thanks to our obligations under the WTO. But that hardly even matters. What really matters is that our trade with Russia is minuscule. Cutting off a piece of our trade would hardly impact them at all. Most of Russia’s trade is with Europe and Asia, so no sanctions regime has even a chance of working unless they agree to join in. So far they haven’t, and for the obvious reason: they have a lot of trade with Russia. Sanctions would hurt them as much as it would hurt Putin.

The chart below, via Danny Vinik, tells the tale. We simply don’t have much trade leverage with Russia. (The export chart looks pretty much the same.) Until Drezner weighs in on this to tell me different, I’d say this is the definitive answer to the question of whether economic sanctions are likely to have any effect on Russia’s conduct.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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