COVID-19 and the Policy of Sanctions: An Event Analysis

By Ivan Timofeev, Director of Programs at Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC)

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a serious impact on international relations. It would have been simply inconceivable to imagine such a massive sea change at the beginning of 2020. The coronavirus has also influenced international sanctions policy. We have witnessed an unwitting experiment that has been prompted by the present emergency situation. On the one hand, sanctions represent an instrument of coercion and a pressure tactic to achieve political goals. This is a ‘zero-sum’ game, in which one of the parties stands to lose more than the other. On the other hand, any extreme catastrophe that unfolds on a global scale, such as the coronavirus pandemic, cries out for solidarity and mutual assistance. The lives of people, regardless of their nationality, become the focus of attention. In such cases, we face a dilemma between political needs and moral imperatives. Political leaders and other actors must choose between one of two extremes: to continue to apply pressure in spite of everything, or at the very least temporarily relax restrictions in the name of saving people’s lives…

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This piece is republished from The Fletcher Forum.


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