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Ministry of Defense of Ukraine

Sanctions, when imposed properly, can influence a country’s actions. However, in the case of North Korea and now Russia, sanctions have failed to alter Vladimir Putin’s decision to carry on with his war against Ukraine.

As a result of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other Western countries have imposed crippling economic sanctions on the Russian government, businesses, and citizens. The UK government froze the assets of Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, preventing him from selling the club. The United States curtailed imports of Russian goods into the country, placed sanctions on Vladimir Putin and other senior Kremlin officials, and banned the import of Russian oil. Additionally, a handful of banks in Russia are being excluded from SWIFT, an international financial system for international transactions.

The latest economic sanctions follow sanctions levied against Russia for its annexation of Crimea in 2014 which resulted in Russia being removed from the G8, now the G7.

Sanctions have plunged Russia into a financial crisis. The Russian ruble is now 0.0092 to the United States dollar. Experts have warned that there are darker days ahead for the Russian ruble.

The crisis over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not the first instance of a country openly defying the wishes of the international community. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was met with sanctions that targeted the finances and trade sector of Iraq, contributing to a reduction of Iraq’s per capita income at the time. In addition, the United Nations blocked oil exports from Iraq, causing a ripple effect on the lives of Iraqis.

Since 2003, no less than 11 African states have been suspended from the African Union following military coups.

The international system is based loosely on the principle of equality and sovereignty of states but firmly hinges on double standards in the relations among states. In a bid to shield Israel, the United States utilizes its privilege as a permanent member of the UN Security Council by exercising its veto power.

Some have pointed out a double standard when it comes to Russia. While the United States slaps sanctions on Russia for committing war crimes, the United States supports Israel by providing it with financial and military aid despite a catalogue of human rights violations directed at Palestinians in the Palestinian territories.

He who pays the piper detects the tune in the international system. He who pays the piper refers to countries with a vast amount of power and influence. These two are unarguably the pivotal elements determining the relations between countries and international organizations. After the United States became the world’s largest economy in 1890 and became a world superpower after the Second World War, the United States and other world powers, including Russia, Great Britain, and the rest have gone on to become the lead states in global affairs, and to an extent influence the actions and decisions of international organizations. They have become the ones who pay the piper and dictate the tune.

The International Criminal Court, established in 2002, is charged with investigating and trying individuals who have allegedly committed the grimmest of crimes, including war crimes. However, the International Criminal Court lacks universal jurisdiction. With 123 member-states of the 197 countries in the world, the court does not have the authority to conduct investigations on citizens who have allegedly committed war crimes that are citizens of the United States, China, Iraq, Israel, and a host of other countries.

In 2020, the Trump administration placed sanctions on Fatou Bensouda and Phakiso Mochochoko for attempting to investigate possible war crimes committed by Americans during its war in Afghanistan. The sanctions have not been lifted by the Biden administration.

Sanctions are beginning to evolve from being used as a means of deterrence to becoming pawns in the hands of a few powerful countries. A vivid example is the case of Russia and the United States. After the United States imposed sanctions on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine, Russia retaliated by slapping sanctions on the United States.

While the war persists and sanctions on Russia are at an all-time high, other countries are caught between these world powers’ war of sanctions. While the sanctions on Russia’s economy are crippling, countries that import goods and services from Russia are suffering even if they oppose Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Countries in the sub-Saharan region of Africa are facing increased energy costs as the war persists. The price of oil has skyrocketed in many developing countries which is further delaying any economic recovery from the pandemic.

There are speculations that Nigeria will be thrown into an impending food crisis due to increases in the prices of wheat and foodstuffs that it would normally import from Russia. In 2020, Nigeria imported $112.46 billion worth of fertilizer from Russia, making Nigeria the largest importer of Russian fertilizer.

While the war in Ukraine approaches its fourth week, the world outside of Ukraine is beginning to feel the knockoff effects of the crisis.

Olayide Oluwafunmilayo Soaga is a freelance journalist from Nigeria. She is a final year student of Political Science from a prestigious university in North-Central Nigeria. Her passion revolves around volunteering to achieve the SDGs and writing stories from an idealist perspective.