It’s now been more than five months since Russia’s most recent invasion of Ukraine. While a series of sanctions intended to punish Russia have been rolled out in the months since the invasion began, clearly they haven’t been enough to force a Russian retreat.
One can argue the current sanctions have had some impact. A recent Yale University study found that “since the start of the Ukraine war, Russia has taken a devastating hit across multiple metrics.” According to the study, “Russia has lost companies representing [around] 40% of its GDP, reversing nearly all of three decades worth of foreign investment.”
Yet, while the sanctions may have resulted in an unprecedented level of capital and population flight from Russia, they’ve clearly fallen short of achieving the supposed objective of ending the invasion. Presently it appears the existing sanctions have led to a stalemate.
If the United States and Europe really want to end the war without military intervention, via sanctions, it’s time to look at which sanctions haven’t been put in place and why.
The EU recently rolled out a new seventh package of sanctions against Russia that includes gold, microchips, and luxury cars. It considered bans on titanium and other raw materials but at the last minute one European company—Airbus—stepped in and exercised a de facto veto over the sanctions pertaining to titanium.
According to a May report, Airbus, the European aerospace giant, “buys about 65% of its titanium from VSMPO.” VSMPO is part of Rostec, a Russia state-owned defense company. While Rostec has been subject to some sanctions, VSMPO, which produces titanium for companies like Airbus, is not.
While titanium doesn’t represent the largest source of income for the Russian economy, the metal still accounts for hundreds of millions of dollars in export revenue. The sanctions certainly would have hurt Russia, but the proposal was blocked because Airbus objected.
The upshot is a clear conflict of interest between nations, which want to use sanctions to put an end to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and multinational corporations, which lobby against them.
While it is understandable that nations imposing sanctions on Russia are wary about the economic consequences they will likewise experience as a result, it is concerning that corporations like Airbus wield the power and influence to veto those sanctions. In this situation, Airbus is actively obstructing the efforts of the both United States and the EU to ramp up sanctions and put an end to this war.
But Airbus alone isn’t at fault. Those very nations claiming to want to force a Russian retreat via sanctions have been unwilling to make the changes necessary to reduce their own reliance and that of companies like Airbus, upon Russian exports.
The United States produces virtually no titanium, for example. We are 100 percent reliant on imports of the metal, despite having an abundance of the mineral in our own country. No earnest effort has been made to increase our own production and reduce both our own reliance upon foreign exports of titanium, nor to reduce Airbus’ reliance.
The stalemate between Russia-Ukraine mirrors the stalemate in the United States and European Union. The reluctance to implement comprehensive sanctions against Russia is rooted in both the United States’ and the EU’s dependence upon Russian exports.
This reliance has only been exacerbated by the Biden Administration’s war against American energy independence.
While it’s certainly concerning that companies like Airbus are obstructing efforts to sanction Russia into submission, it’s alarming that the United States and EU are making no efforts to address the root cause of their own restrained efforts to effectively punish Russia.
It’s true that one company—like Airbus—should not have veto power over sanctions at a time when they show hopeful signs of working. But it was Biden’s lifting of sanctions against Russia’s Nordstream 2 pipeline that emboldened Putin to invade Russia. Since then it has become clear that the West is vulnerable because of our reliance upon foreign exports from Russia, and other hostile nations like China.
If Europe and the United States truly want to end the Russia-Ukraine conflict and avoid future confrontations, it is imperative that we regain independence. Until then, we are fighting with our hands tied behind our backs. Wars are neither won, nor prevented with restraint.
Currently, we fear the sanctions imposed on Russia will hurt the United States and the EU more than Russia. Until we address this and eliminate our reliance upon Russia, we will continue to virtue signal our desire to see Russia retreat without being able to actually do anything about it.
The lack of action from both the United States and the EU to reduce reliance on Russia and the repeated caving into demands of companies like Airbus makes you wonder if they’re even serious about ending the invasion and avoiding future confrontations.