This week, the leaders of the G7 first reaffirmed at a summit in Bavaria their “unwavering commitment” to support Ukraine’s fight against Russia “for as long as it takes”. They then jetted off to the NATO summit in Madrid, where they discussed ways to strengthen the military alliance in response to Vladimir Putin’s ongoing aggression.
The G7’s words are by no means hollow – its leaders have already begun instituting an agreed ban on Russian gold and are seeking ways to further limit oil sales by imposing a “price cap” on Russian exports.
The NATO summit began with a success, too, with Turkey agreeing to support Finland and Sweden’s accession to the alliance on June 28. Yet as Putin’s war enters its fifth month – and with the Kremlin refusing to even consider any serious diplomatic solution to the conflict – the G7 and NATO must begin looking at the potential threats to their ability to continue providing support to Kyiv over the medium and long term.
First and foremost, it is important that the West act to ensure that its strategy is indeed sustainable “for as long as it takes” for Russia to be defeated. That may be quite some time, and the West is far more susceptible to public pressure, and thus to the negative economic impact of the sanctions, than Putin ever will be.
The Kremlin has no strategy to overcome the sanctions – Putin is quite clearly happy to plunge his country’s economy into autarky in exchange for realising his neo-imperial vision – but does believe that it can overcome them so long as there are still markets willing to import its oil and gas, and so long as the rouble remains convertible. It also believes it can continue to mitigate the impact of technology sanctions by finding partners in third countries willing to take the risk of violating prohibition on these sales, even as the Biden administration sanctions those involved in such transactions. This is because it believes that Western unity will falter as the economic impact of sanctioning Russia bites in the West.
This belief forms a key pillar of Russian propaganda, which claims that the West is suffering far more from the sanctions agenda than Russians are. This is blatantly false – the West has seen nothing like the 69 percent increase in poverty that Russia experienced in the first quarter of 2022, which only reflects the impact of the first five weeks of the war and sanctions – but nevertheless, the reality is that sanctions will have a significant economic and political impact in the West.