Countries Are Hitting Russia With Sanctions Instead Of War & Here's What That Actually Means

Russia is paying a huge price for Putin's war.

U.S. President Joe Biden. Right: Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Global Editorial Fellow

U.S. President Joe Biden. Right: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Google searches for "World War III" spiked after Russia invaded Ukraine last week, but with the risk of a fight turning into nuclear war, many countries have found other ways to punish Russia for its attack.

Countries in Europe and NATO have refused to send troops into Ukraine and instead keep talking about one thing: sanctions.

But what are sanctions?

According to Dow Jones, sanctions are a form of punishment a government uses against another government by imposing some sort of restriction — usually with economic implications. These restrictions can take the form of travel bans, taxes, import bans and even a freeze on a country's foreign assets, including its cash. Sanctions can also extend to companies and governments that continue to trade with the country.

A big part of the goal of sanctions is to put the squeeze on the citizens of a target country, with the hope that those citizens will get upset and pressure their leaders to make changes.

But while some sanctions can affect an entire population, others can be targeted at specific people, such as Russia's powerful and politically connected billionaires, known as oligarchs.

Many of these tools are being used to punish Russia for its invasion, and we're already seeing an impact. The ruble, Russia's currency, has absolutely cratered since the invasion began, losing nearly 30% of its value, according to Business Insider.

According to Bloomberg, countries have frozen money in Russian banks, pulled Vodka from liquor shelves, created no-fly zones for Russian aircraft and even blocked boats believed to be owned by Russia.

When Russia first invaded Ukraine, the United States imposed heavy sanctions not just on Russia, but also on specific Russian officials.

"This coming week, we will launch a multilateral Transatlantic task force to identify, hunt down, and freeze the assets of sanctioned Russian companies and oligarchs – their yachts, their mansions, and any other ill-gotten gains that we can find and freeze under the law," said a tweet from the White House.

Currently, the U.S. is looking for Russian oligarchs in an attempt to freeze their assets.

It's unclear if or when Russian President Vladimir Putin will halt his invasion, but some oligarchs are already complaining about it, CNBC reports. Bloomberg reports that Russia's richest people have lost about $83 billion so far this year.

That begs the question: How much more will they be OK with losing?

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

Andrew Mrozowski
Global Editorial Fellow