Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Russia Isn’t Nearly as Isolated as Washington Wants You to Believe | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on March 18, 2022

But it is becoming clear that most of the world’s regimes don’t plan on voluntarily casting Russia into the outer darkness. That means if the US wants to truly isolate Russia, Washington will have to threaten and coerce other regimes that aren’t going along with it.

Ryan McMaken

Some US policymakers and pundits are declaring that Russia—and its population—are cut off from the rest of the world. For example, political scientist Nina Khrushcheva has declared “Russia is hated by the rest of the world” and that “Russia is the global enemy.” The New York Times concludes Russia is now “an economic pariah” and that a “new iron curtain” is falling.

There is no doubt that the sanctions imposed by wealthy Western nations will negatively impact the Russian regime, the Russian economy, and the Russian people. Ordinary Russians, who currently enjoy a GDP (gross domestic product) per capita that is only a fraction of the size of that of many Western countries, will suffer greatly.

But when it comes to the degree of Russia’s isolation, those gloating about Russia being “cut off” are overstating the case. In fact, many of the world’s largest countries have shown a reluctance to participate in the US’s sanction schemes and have instead embraced a far more measured approach. So long as China, India, and other large states continue to be at least partially sympathetic toward Moscow, they will provide a large market for Russia’s natural resources and its other exports. And these nations have signaled they’re not cutting off Russia just yet.

Moreover, if the US is going to demand that the world fall into line behind US sanctions, that means the US is going to have to enforce its policy on reluctant nations. That ultimately means the US will need to threaten—or in some cases, implement—secondary sanctions designed to punish nations that don’t sanction Russia as well. The long-term effects of constructing a coerced global anti-Russia bloc may prove costly for Washington, and in any case, pronouncements of a new iron curtain falling around Russia appear premature.

Thirty-Five UN Member States—Representing Half the World’s Population—Abstained

For Americans watching TV news, it no doubt sounds like the entire world has united behind an American-led campaign of moral righteousness against the Russians. Out in much of the real world, however, things look a little different. Anthony Faiola and Lesley Wroughton summed up the situation in the Washington Post last week:

Many countries in the developing world, including some of Russia’s closest allies, are unsettled by Putin’s breach of Ukrainian sovereignty. Yet the giants of the Global South—including India, Brazil and South Africa—are hedging their bets while China still publicly backs Putin. Even NATO-member Turkey is acting coy, moving to shut off the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to all warships, not just the Russians.

Just as Western onlookers often shrug at far-flung conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, some citizens in emerging economies are gazing at Ukraine and seeing themselves without a dog in this fight—and with compelling national interests for not alienating Russia. In a broad swath of the developing world, the Kremlin’s talking points are filtering into mainstream news and social media. But even more measured assessments portray Ukraine as not the battle royal between good and evil being witnessed by the West, but a Machiavellian tug of war between Washington and Moscow.

Meanwhile, James Pindell at the Boston Globe concludes,

Possibly lost in all the headlines [about the whole world being united against Russia] is that it is not the entire world against Russia. In fact, most of three huge continents—Asia, Africa, and South America—are either still working with Russia or trying to project the image of neutrality.

It easy to see why so many come to the wrong conclusions, however.

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