Russian Sanctions: The Helpful, the Harmful, and the Pointless

There’s a difference between actions that only make us feel good and actions that actually help Ukraine.

by Jessica Flanigan and Christopher Freiman

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has put economic sanctions back on the front page. Most of the focus has been on political sanctions—cases where public officials restrict commerce with another country to pressure its leaders to change their policies. For instance, the Biden administration has recently banned the importation of Russian oil and gas to weaken the Russian economy and the Putin regime along with it. But sanctions can also be private, when businesses or individuals voluntarily choose to stop doing business with the sanctioned country. Ford, Nike, Apple, and—in a true test of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mettle—Pornhub have suspended dealings with Russia in protest of the war. So, are these sanctions justified?

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