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Sanctions against Russia have made no difference, says Bishop of Leeds

22 September 2023

A rally in Sydney, Australia, about Russian sanctions, last week

A rally in Sydney, Australia, about Russian sanctions, last week

THE imposition of thousands of sanctions against Russia since it invaded Ukraine has “made no appreciable difference”, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, has said.

In the House of Lords on Monday of last week, Bishop Baines asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the impact of sanctions against Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine”.

A Foreign Office minister, Lord Ahmad, replied that sanctions imposed by the UK and its international partners had “starved Russia of key Western goods and technology, degrading Russia’s military and restricting its capacity to fight a 21st-century war”.

In a follow-up question, however, Bishop Baines argued that, given the stated aim of sanctions was to “encourage Russia to cease its destabilising actions in Ukraine”, there was “no evidence that sanctions have had any such impact”.

He continued: “Russian GDP has dropped by a mere two per cent, and the country is skilled in circumventing sanctioned goods through third countries. Despite being subject to 13,000 different sanctions, which I think is more than any other country before, they have made no appreciable difference to Russia’s behaviour — we think of its links with North Korea, China, Iran, and so on.

“Are the Government therefore prepared to move to more precisely targeted smart sanctions, the aims of which are clearly defined and the impact of which more measurable?”

Lord Ahmad disagreed with the Bishop’s assessment of the effectiveness of sanctions.

“I can share with him that sanctions are having a direct impact,” he said. “On revenues alone, they have left Russia’s budget in deficit rather than the surplus that the Russian government themselves predicted for 2022. Russia has suffered an annual deficit of £47 billion: the second highest of the post-Soviet era. Russia’s energy revenues fell 47 per cent in the first half of this year. At the same time, global oil prices are lower.”

Furthermore, Lord Ahmad said, more than 1000 foreign businesses had left Russia; and Armenia, Turkey, and Kazakhstan had “taken action on the issue of supply chains”. He concluded: “That kind of co-ordination is important if we are going to make these sanctions work across the piece.”

In the Lords on Tuesday of last week, the Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, asked the Government “What assessment they have made of the statement by African faith leaders on 8 August calling for a reduction of debt across African countries”.

Baroness Penn, responding for the Government, said that it was working with other G20 countries “to ensure swift progress and effective implementation of debt treatments under the Common Framework to deliver a long-term, sustainable approach to dealing with debt vulnerabilities”.

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