After the elections in Belarus in 2020, the West has already adopted four packages of sanctions against Lukashenko’s regime. A fifth one is expected. How effective are the restrictive measures?
The European Union has announced a fifth package of sanctions against the Belarusian authorities. It is expected to be directed against persons and companies involved in sending migrants from the Middle East and Africa to the EU via the territory of Belarus. Does the West have the tools to influence the Belarusian regime? Are the sanctions imposed earlier effective?
Have the sanctions achieved the goals declared by the West?
“One can talk about the effectiveness of sanctions when they begin to achieve the goals set by the West: reduction of violence by the authorities, release of political prisoners, dialogue with civil society. So far, we do not see any movement of the Belarusian authorities in this direction,” says Vadim Iosub, senior analyst at Alpari Eurasia consulting company.
According to him, the sanctions have another purpose – to increase the price for the regime for the lack of response, but there has been little progress due to the fact that almost all the previous sanctions, imposed before the fourth package, were personal and only targeted individual companies. “The fourth package affects large enterprises and even entire industries, but because of the postponement for previously concluded contracts with European counterparties, the sanctions will take effect only after these contracts expire,” the expert adds.
“The sanctions are arranged in such a way that they have no impact on the economy so far, except for the organizational and legal one, when people and structures, affected by them, enter the new players that could freely trade in goods,” points out Belarusian economist Yaroslav Romanchuk.
According to him, the economic indicators of the three quarters of 2021 confirm that: the average salary of $570 indicates that the budget is balanced, the exchange rate is quite stable and the inflation is not as the National Bank would like it to be, but not catastrophic. “The assumption that the sanctions will accelerate the release of political prisoners and force Lukashenko to sit down at the negotiating table is not supported by anything,” says Romanchuk.
“Sanctions were not a shock therapy
“The sanctions were introduced gradually, it did not become something like shock therapy. They should be comprehensive and quick,” this view was expressed by Jan Hagemer, vice president of the board of CASE, during an online discussion about the effectiveness of sanctions organized by the Office of Svetlana Tikhanovska.
The expert also believes it is important to show that the Lukashenko regime is toxic not only to Belarusian society, but also to Vladimir Putin. “Subsidies from Russia, which have been sent to Belarus for many years, are the main reason for the vitality of the Belarusian economy,” Hagemeyer notes. He and Anders Åslund, a senior fellow at the Stockholm Free World Forum, developed a policy paper, “EU Sanctions on Belarus as an Effective Policy Tool.”
“As for financial sanctions, the focus should be on state-owned enterprises and the state financial sector. This also applies to Russian financial institutions, because they subsidize (Belarusian – Ed.) state-owned enterprises,” says Åslund. – The issue of Belarusian bonds, all sovereign bonds of Belarus and their secondary market should fall under the sanctions. In addition, Anders Åslund considers it necessary for the European Union, United States, United Kingdom, Norway and Switzerland to coordinate their actions with regard to the imposition of sanctions on the Belarusian authorities.