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University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation

Containment 2.0: Sanctions for the Long Haul

March 09, 2022
David Lake


In analysis for Political Violence At A Glance, an IGCC-supported blog dedicated to political violence and its alternatives, IGCC affiliate David Lake, a Professor of political science at UC San Diego, explains why current sanctions against Russia won’t end the conflict in Ukraine, and should instead be seen as part of a “Containment 2.0” strategy reminiscent of the Cold War.

The West is not imposing coercive sanctions on Russia to stop its current aggression. No one seriously expects that the sanctions will cause President Putin to withdraw from Ukraine. NATO made clear before the war that its members will not defend Ukraine with military force. The European members have also, as expected, carved out exceptions to the sanctions regime for oil and gas so as not to impose too much pain on their own economies. Putin anticipated the general scope of the sanctions likely to be imposed on Russia and decided it was worth invading Ukraine anyways. While he may have been surprised by the extent of the sanctions and unity of NATO so far, this is not enough to alter his calculus. Indeed, he is doubling down on the original plan. He also knows that he has other weapons and forms of coercion against the West up his sleeve.

Rather, we are seeing the birth of a possible Containment 2.0, a forced decoupling of Russia from the Western international economy. This is a long-term, not a short-term, strategy. The point is to undermine the Russian economy, stifle its technological progress, deny Russians a standard of living comparable to that of the West, and break support for the regime over time. In doing so, the West undermines Russia’s ability to compete militarily, aiming to forestall further Ukraines, and weakens Putin’s hand at home and abroad.

Read the full blog post at Political Violence At A Glance.