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Russia Is Winning the Sanctions Game

Citazione:These sanctions were supposed to punish Moscow’s elite, but instead they’ve spurred economic development and patriotism.
The current conversation about Russia sanctions centers around targeting and scope. Are we punishing the people whose behavior we most want to change? Is there pain, well inflicted, on those individuals responsible for creating chaos in Ukraine and Crimea, for reckless attacks on Sergei Skripal and others, and for wanton interference in Western elections? Can we hurt Russian elites in a way that Putin will notice? Have we done enough?

In at least one sector, though, the sanctions are a textbook case of unintended consequences: they’ve put Russian farmers in the best shape they’ve ever been. Countersanctions aimed at imported Western food products—put into effect just days after the initial sanctions in the summer of 2014—initially sent Russian consumers into a tailspin, hungry from a lack of immediate alternatives to tasty European cheeses and processed foods. But palates adjusted quickly, and the import substitution effects boosted Russia, by 2016, to the position of top wheat exporter in the world. As the United States hemorrhages global agro-market share courtesy of Trump-era tariffs and trade wars, Russia is actively and aggressively filling the gap…

In July of last year, Putin announced that the countersanctions would remain in place at least through December 2019. This was no surprise. Why would he backtrack, when his previously languishing farmers have thrived under these new conditions? The sanctions created an opportunity to build back a crippled Russian food industry, and Putin grabbed it. Recent U.S. tariffs have expanded the opening even further to new export markets. Moving forward, the Trump administration needs to think this through: unintended consequences are more likely when a clever adversary is actively looking for ways to create and exploit them. Regardless of whether Trump sees Russia as an adversary or wants to maintain sanctions at all, it’s hard to imagine the bolstering of a Russian competitor to U.S. farmers as a desired outcome of the sanctions regime. In this specific case, Russia remains a few steps ahead in the game.

[Immagine: 2019-02-13T190403Z_1_LYNXNPEF1C1LJ_RTROP...CTIONS.jpg]

 

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