G-7 countries recent meeting in Brussels understandably grabbed global headlines for their unified message that they “stand ready to intensify targeted sanctions and to implement significant additional restrictive measures to impose further costs on Russia should events so require.”
While sanctions imposed by G-7 countries, as well as the EU, drive the engine of global sanctions enforcement, there are almost 200 other countries in the world and many of them want to have their position on sanctions known. Last week, for example, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić surprised no one on Earth (or anywhere else for that matter) when he told Serbian media, “It’s impossible to imagine Serbia imposing sanctions on Russia.” Of course, Nikolić’s pronouncement is hardly going to cause the E.U. to rethink, even for a fraction of a nanosecond, its position on Russian sanctions. On the other hand, the E.U. sanctions may cause Serbia, given that Russia is one of it’s largest trading partners, to rethink the wisdom of its application to become a member of the E.U.
Besting Serbia’s population by over a billion, China is emerging as a critical Russian ally and the most important country that is not imposing sanctions against it. As with Serbia, economic self-interest and the volume of China’s trade with Russia may be at the heart of this. In fact, reports on the recent $400 billion, 30-year deal for Gazprom to supply natural gas to China suggest the deal would be based on a ruble-yuan exchange and bypass Western financial systems altogether.
With developed countries like China and Serbia using economic self-interest to justify trading with Russia despite its shenanigans in Ukraine, some developing countries may be acting against their own economic self-interest in imposing sanctions to deal with regional conflicts. Reuters reported this week, for example, that members of the Intergovernmental Agency for Development, an East African trade group made up of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda, have threatened sanctions against South Sudan if warring factions do not cooperate to end conflict in that country. The United States imposed sanctions in early May against military leaders involved in the conflict, but they likely will provide no meaningful impact. However, when everyday trade with your neighboring countries starts to become restricted, sanctions are far more likely to achieve the goal of ending conflict. If East African sanctions succeed against South Sudan while E.U and U.S. sanctions have no impact on Ukraine, then we will certainly have a situation where it’s the mice that roar while the elephants squeak.
Sanctions news runs on the front page when it involves the United States and Europe but also on the back pages as it involves the rest of the world. You have to read the whole paper to make sure you have the full story.