War without bombs: sanctions
The rules of war are set by international treaty. Sanctions are a free-for-all.
The wisdom of the street tells us that sanctions between nations are meant as an alternative to war in dealing with intractable issues. One nation or a group of nations use sanctions to force a desired result, force regime change, and punish violations of sovereignty, among other reasons.
However when it comes to war and peace, the more draconian sanctions become, the more they may produce an opposite result. In fact, Vladimir Putin just declared such lock-down sanctions “an act of war.” He is signaling that the usual “counter sanctions” would not be an effective response. Given Putin’s past “red line” warnings, perhaps graduated applications of physical force are “on the table” - to use a favorite American phrase.
When war happens after all efforts to avoid have been exhausted or ignored, there are universally agreed upon rules to cover the conduct of that war - all administered under the United Nations. The purpose of these rules are meant to protect civilians and non-combatants, ensure humane treatment for prisoners, avoid the wanton degradation of the environment and control overkill from advanced technologies. Violations of these rules are called “war crimes” and there is a judiciary to prosecute “war criminals.”
The rules are explained in the short graphical video below.
But when it comes to sanctions there are practically no rules. Only the UN has the legal right to impose and enforce sanctions, which are used to punish a country for breaking international law. However “unilateral sanctions” are outside UN jurisdiction and the UN urges nations not to comply with such. The UN can insert itself if the sanctions are inhumane. Targets of such sanctions can appeal to the World Court, which regularly rules against many sanctions on the basis that they violate human rights.
By now it should be obvious that unilateral sanctions need some oversight. The big powers have no appetite for any limitation on their tools beyond diplomacy. Rules would prohibit targeting individual people, prohibit infringements on human rights and ensure that sanctions would be proportional to the transgression. Politically motivated sanctions to force regime change would be prohibited, as well as sanctions against countries who won’t cooperate with the sanctions. Until there are international rules, unilateral sanctions are illegal.
Sanctions can target a nation’s leaders and sectors of its economy. But there can be no justification for punishing common every day people. Food, medicine, health, clothing and personal finances should be exempt. Unregulated, sanctions can kill as easily as war - minus the brick and mortar damage.
If you want to get all the details about sanctions go to: https://www.epw.in/engage/article/do-sanctions-violate-international-law
My boiled down conclusions are the result of a deep look into the topics of war and sanctions. I am sharing them here in order to stimulate your interest in verifying for yourself - before the fake news trolls take over.
My awareness of these topics came about because I am retired in Moscow, where my wife has family from Crimea to Siberia to the Far East. We depend on our international credit and debit cards for day to day expenses, including medical and transportation. Being quasi-handicapped, I am unable to deal with the crush of people at embarkation points, nor can we leave our grandchildren behind. So we are stuck here without access to our financial resources for living expenses.
It was disappointing when Visa and Mastercard decided to go beyond the scope of the unilateral sanction requirements and shut down service for everybody in Russia. Supermarkets, pharmacies, and hospitals could have been exempted. Hopefully there will be a big class action suit against them for violating their agreements with their retail users. And many other international companies that deal with people at retail are also opting out just to appease the politically correct vengeance brigade.
Just before this posting McDonalds, Starbucks and other fast food chains announced “suspension” of their operations in Russia, which leaves the door open to resumption when this situation is resolved to the satisfaction of both sides. Reports in Russia indicate compromise is in the air.
The war may end soon, but sanctions, like new temporary taxes, can last forever.