In the EU, the discussion about possible new sanctions against Russia has not really started yet, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says: „That does not upset us anymore.“ Regardless of whether this is true or not, He points directly to a problem of the West: sanctions are an instrument that quickly wears off. The measures taken to date against Russia have been painful for the affected sections of the Russian economy and the regime’s personal sanctioned regime, but as with almost any other pain, it also decreases with time. Since it is neither possible nor even desirable to wrestle Russia economically, new sanctions could hardly be more than an exclamation point – a signal that the EU does not agree with the Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine.
Such symbolic acts do not scare the Kremlin, at least in public. Rather, he can easily incorporate them into his propaganda messages about the evil West to his own people. The idea that sanctions could force a reversal of Russian politics was an illusion four years ago at the beginning of the war in Ukraine; But Putin and his surroundings are far too much for that. This does not mean that the EU should not think about new sanctions, given Russia’s actions in the Sea of Azov. On the contrary. Because it’s about much more than the incidents of the past few days. They are just the latest culmination of a planned weakening of the Ukrainian East for more than a year.
Sanctions are not ineffective: they change the calculation in the Kremlin. Even small stitches can hurt. Above all, they would be a sign that there is no return to „business as usual“ and that attempts to drive a wedge to the West have been in vain. However, they must not remain the only reaction: Ukraine needs more support and attention, the Europeans must do more for the energy independence of Russia (and therefore should refrain from Nord Stream 2). For the prompt Russian rejection of European mediation offers shows that the Kremlin is out to escalation.