Sanctions against Russia dim prospects of peaceful settlement of the conflict, writes a daily tabloid Global Times that is an arm of the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper People’s Daily. We have explored if lifting sanctions matters for peace and why China’s officials spread such thoughts.
The sanctions’ impact
“The Ukrainian Review” has asked Denys Moskalyk, the coordinator for International Policy at the Center for Political Studies «Doctrine«, about the possibility of peace after lifting sanctions, related to the war in Ukraine.
“The main goal of real sanctions at this stage is to constantly inflict losses on Russia so that it has fewer resources for pursuing an aggressive policy, — Denys Moskalyk says. — Sanctions and adaptation to them for the Russian Federation is a separate track from the war, although it is related to it. Under these conditions, the lifting of sanctions cannot lead to peace. Both sides rely on the resolution of contradictions by force. Peace is not possible now. What peace could be in the near future is a temporary «bad» one that will not satisfy any of the parties and will not resolve the existing contradictions, but will instead lead to a new military campaign in the following years.”
As for claims about the uselessness of the western sanctions, the expert says that Russia is constantly adapting to them, reorienting supplies to other markets, and involving intermediaries in energy export and semiconductor import schemes. Russia adapted to the oil sanctions by expanding exports to China and India, using the STS scheme (ship-to-ship), with the transfer of oil from tanker to a tanker at sea, involving intermediaries and hubs in the United Arab Emirates. Therefore, the potential of sanctions cannot be exhausted, new sanctions must be introduced regularly to implement constant sanctions pressure. This is the only way to cause permanent damage to the Russian Federation, increasing its losses. Otherwise, Russian adaptation will minimize the effect of sanctions without causing significant damage to the economy of the aggressor state.
Chinese official position about the war in Ukraine
The idea of lifting sanctions also appeared in China’s Peace Plan, an official position of China about the Russian-Ukrainian war:
“10. Stopping unilateral sanctions. Unilateral sanctions and maximum pressure cannot solve the issue; they only create new problems. China opposes unilateral sanctions unauthorized by the UN Security Council. Relevant countries should stop abusing unilateral sanctions and “long-arm jurisdiction” against other countries, so as to do their share in de-escalating the Ukraine crisis and create conditions for developing countries to grow their economies and better the lives of their people.”
It’s worth adding, this plan received mixed reactions. «We share Beijing’s views,» — the foreign ministry in Moscow said in a statement. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said it is not bad that China started talking about Ukraine, but an important thing is what will be Chinese actions. As for the western leaders, they have largely dismissed this peace plan.
For more details about the meaning of China’s proposals, we have asked an independent international relations analyst and expert on East Asia Nataliya Plaksiyenko-Butyrska.
“China does not want Ukraine to completely defeat Russia, — Nataliya Plaksiyenko-Butyrska thinks. — This can be seen primarily from their plan, as well as from the fact that the Chinese ambassador to the European Union recently said that both sides should not seek to achieve someone’s unconditional victory, negotiations should be held at the table.
China has several motives. The first is that this country has a large border with Russia and it wants it to remain stable. Stability in the Chinese sense is a strong hand that maintains order that does not threaten the security of China and its borders. According to the People’s Republic of China, it is Vladimir Putin who provides such stability, because the approach in Russia, which is somewhat similar to China itself, is authoritarian. No one can now predict the consequences of Russia’s defeat, whether Putin will stay in power and who will come to power. Russia is also important for this country as a player on a regional scale, as a fellow in the struggle for global leadership and confrontation with the USA.
In addition, China appreciates the role of Russia as a particular force that holds the security issue in Central Asia. Although the two countries already compete there in some aspects, they still do not go against each other. And it is very convenient for China that Russia is always ready to deal with security issues and possible problems that may arise in the region (in particular, due to its proximity to unstable Afghanistan, due to certain Muslim groups that can incite unrest).”
How China helps Ukraine in the war
According to the remarks by Chinese Ambassador Geng Shuang at the UN Security Council Briefing on the Humanitarian Issue in Ukraine on 7 September 2022, the Chinese Government has provided three batches of humanitarian supplies to Ukraine. According to information from March 2022, China planned to supply firstly about $790,000 in humanitarian aid and lately there has been decided about an additional $1,600,000.
Analyzing China’s voting on UN resolutions, condemning the Russian resolution in Ukraine, it’s worth adding that Chinese officials don’t support Ukraine diplomatically. They didn’t support any of Ukraine’s resolutions with four times abstaining and two times voting against them.
At the same time, James Rubin, a coordinator for the Global Engagement Center claims that China spends billions on spreading pro-Russia disinformation. According to his information, Chinese outlays are even bigger than Russian ones.
“There are also rumors that China is considering supplying Russia with weapons, — says Nataliya Plaksiyenko-Butyrska. — Europeans and Americans talk about it very actively. But by voicing this information, this intelligence draws certain red lines for China. If it starts providing these weapons, of course, sanctions will be imposed against this country.”
Personally, the expert doesn’t think that China will start interfering at the state level, because it has completely different plans. It tries to present itself as a peacemaker. Nevertheless, according to Nataliya Plaksiyenko-Butyrska, during the year it was observed that some Chinese companies were quietly supplying non-lethal, radar weapons. There is information that drones were provided through third countries. The number of exports of semiconductors to Russia has increased. It is estimated that spare parts for airplanes and helicopters were exported. Knowing the specifics of China, the Communist Party leadership fully supervises the military and defense sector, even if these companies are private. If these facts existed, then in any case they knew about it at the highest level and it was not limited.
“But I rule out the active military involvement of China, instead, I expect the active promotion of this peace plan and the formation of a group of countries around it, which are already calling Ukraine for peace because of their own discomfort,” — adds the expert.
According to the Castellum.AI information, 11 458 sanctions were imposed on Russia after a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. These restrictions are mostly individual (9 207). The largest number of sanctions are maintained by the USA (1 948), Switzerland (1 782), and Canada (1 590). It is worth adding, Russia is the most sanctioned country in the world now (total number of penalties — 14 153).
As for the impact of the sanctions on the Russian economy, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean (CREA), the country loses about €160 million per day only because of the EU oil embargo and G7 price-cap. To understand this number better, it is worth saying that Russia uses between 10 000 and 50 000 shells per day for the war, and the average price of a Soviet-caliber shell is about $1000. So, these €160 million without sanctions could be enough money to buy shells destroying Ukrainian cities for three days more. At the same time, there are still not enough penalties to make Russia end the war.