Vladimir Putin accuses The West of ‘starting the war’
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Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his lengthy State of the Nation speech on February 21 ahead of the poignant upcoming one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine. Addressing delegates in Moscow, the 70-year-old made a number of claims, including assertions that the unprecedented level of economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the West had not had the desired impact. But is this true? Express.co.uk asked the experts.
During the speech, Putin claimed that Russia had all the financial resources to fund its national security and development despite the sanctions imposed.
Sanction packages have been extensive and ongoing from across the Western world. December of last year saw the EU impose a price cap on Russian crude oil come into force with the price cap on petroleum products coming into play earlier this year. And following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to the UK earlier this month, the British Government announced further sanctions against the military complex and Kremlin elites.
Putin claimed the Western sanctions — which he said were designed to make the Russian population “suffer” — have not succeeded, instead, he said the share of Russian rubles in international transactions had doubled.
However, Mark Harrison, Emeritus Professor of Economics at Warwick University who specialised in the economic history of Russia and the Soviet bloc, discredited this, explaining that Putin’s latter point was a sign of the exact opposite.
He told Express.co.uk: “The effects of sanctions take time, they are always overpredicted in the short term, and therefore often underestimated in the long term. And in the long term, every percentage point shaved off Russia’s national income will weaken Russia on the battlefield, where the war will be decided.
“And since Russia’s trade in dollars and euros is mostly sanctioned, it is hardly a surprise that the share of Russia’s trade in rubles has increased. If anything, it is a sign that sanctions are working.”
Putin continued by telling the audience that Moscow is working with other countries to build payment systems with domestic companies rebuilding supply chains in response to the sanctions as the West seeks to use Ukraine “as a ram against Russia”.
Putin also told his audience that “GDP in 2022 has decreased by only 2.1 percent and I’ll remind you that in February or March, they predicted a collapse of the Russian economy”.
It is true that it had been predicted the Russian economy would fall by 12 percent and that it had, in fact, only shrunk by 2.2 percent in 2022, according to the most recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) report.
However, it is worth noting that the decrease by a little over two percent still makes it the worst-performing country on the IMF’s list, as well as Professor Harrison’s point that the impact of sanctions take time.
Moderate growth of Russia’s economy is reportedly expected over the rest of 2023.
Additionally, doubt has been cast on predictions coming from Russia as critics claim since data coming from out of Moscow is no longer deemed reliable.
The Russian economy’s supposed success, when compared to the dire predictions, stems from the fact that Russia continued trading with countries that had not imposed sanctions.
For example, the likes of China and India picked up the oil that Europe was no longer buying.
But economist Vladyslsav Vlasiuk, who is based in the Ukrainian capital, said last week that a wide range of British bans and exemptions were in fact “crippling” the Russian economy and stressed that the West must go further and target those spreading “false narratives”.
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The British sanctions introduced this month, he said, would help “accelerate the economic pressures” on the Russian President while simultaneously undermining his “war machine”.
He added that a coordinated approach taken against Russian propagandists, such as cultural figures and artists would bring an end to the country’s aggression.
He said: “We already saw how these sanctions have affected Russia’s access to key technologies and industrial inputs which compromised its military capability.
“Sanctions will increase the cost on Russia for its illegal aggression in Ukraine, and ultimately cripple the Federation’s war machine, bringing the war to an end.”
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