Who do the Sanctions against Russia Really Hurt?

U.S. President Joe Biden has made a big deal about not putting “boots on the ground,” that is, not sending U.S. troops to Ukraine to fight against the Russian invasion. While this is true, the U.S. government and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) powers are repositioning their troops closer to the Russian border and are sending other kinds of military aid to the government of Ukraine. So, the threat of U.S. military engagement is ever-present.

In addition, the U.S. government and the other major powers are using economic and financial sanctions against Russia. Not wanting to engage in an all-out war with Russia that could develop into World War 3, the U.S. and its NATO allies are using sanctions to make economic war. But who are the victims of this form of war, and what can we expect it to achieve?

Economic and financial sanctions don’t just hurt Russian billionaires and their politicians, led by Vladimir Putin. The Russian ruling class may have to sell some of its yachts, but the sanctions really hurt ordinary people, most deeply the poorest. The U.S. billionaires and their politicians, led by Biden, hope that the sanctions will hurt Russian people enough that they will pressure Putin’s government to end the war.

As a result of the invasion and the sanctions, the Russian currency (the ruble) lost 30 percent of its value in one day, on Feb. 28. Since then, its value has dropped even further. As of Mar. 10, it had lost 50 percent of its value. This means skyrocketing inflation for working-class people in Russia, impacting food, medications, electronics, appliances, and more. This means less to eat for many families, and people being forced to choose between food, clothing, and other necessities of life. And the average income in Russia was about one-sixth that of the U.S. when the war started. So, the average working-class family in Russia was already much poorer than their counterparts in the U.S.

Additionally, because of the sanctions the Russian stock exchange has closed. This has largely shut down foreign investment in Russia. That means that jobs disappear. To make matters worse, U.S.-based and other companies have shut down their operations in Russia. This has included all kinds of businesses, from retailers like Nike, Apple, Coca Cola, Starbuck’s, and McDonald’s, to giant shipping companies like Maersk, auto parts companies from Ford to Volvo, and aircraft parts suppliers like Boeing and Airbus. Many different kinds of workers’ jobs are under attack.

There has been a run on the Russian banks with long lines formed at ATMs as people have sought to use their cash before the ruble loses even more value.

The impacts of the economic sanctions are not just affecting Russia. Ukraine and Russia combined are a huge agricultural “breadbasket” for the world, producing nearly 30 percent of the wheat on the world market. Since the beginning of February, the global price of grain has shot up more than 75 percent in the market’s reaction to the threat, and then the reality, of this war. Meanwhile, the disruption in the trade of fossil fuels has sent gasoline prices skyrocketing to record highs. How are working people and all victims of the world’s market-driven poverty going to endure this onslaught?

The U.S. and NATO politicians would like us to think that their response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine is nonviolent. But their so-called sanctions take food from children’s mouths. That is violence. Their sanctions destroy jobs and cause inflation, not just in Russia, but around the world, affecting millions of people’s physical and mental health. That is violence. How dare they pretend that it is not?

Biden and most of the U.S. and the world’s politicians want us to blame Putin alone. And Putin is unquestionably responsible for this attack and the civilian slaughter that is accompanying it. But let’s remember that the U.S. government set up NATO during the Cold War to threaten the Soviet Union. So, when the Soviet Union dissolved 30 years ago and Russia became a capitalist nation again, why didn’t NATO disband? The rulers of the U.S. and most of Europe still saw Russia as a competitor on a global scale for markets and resources. They have continued to try to isolate the Russian rulers. Putin and the Russian ruling class have pushed back, and the U.S. and NATO have called Putin’s bluff.

So here we are. The whole Ukrainian population is facing death and destruction. And the rest of the exploited and oppressed of the world face the brunt of sanctions and the threat of a wider war. We have to reject this economic war as well as the bombing and invasion of Ukraine. Working people are being made pawns in a fight among the powerful, who are carving up territory and profits.

  • Russian troops out of Ukraine!
  • U.S. and Europe — hands off Ukraine!
  • The people of the region have the right to determine their own future – free from outside forces of domination!