Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Smart Sanctions against Russia: Human Rights, Magnitsky and the Ukrainian Crisis

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Smart Sanctions against Russia: Human Rights, Magnitsky and the Ukrainian Crisis

Article excerpt

Abstract: This article examines the emergence of U.S. "smart" sanctions against Russia that have targeted specific citizens and/or companies both for human rights violations and for threatening the peace, security, stability or territorial integrity of Ukraine since 2012. It argues that, while it is too early to determine their full impact, the new sanctions provide potent tools of international statecraft that should be increasingly adopted in U.S. interactions with the Russian Federation.

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In 2012, human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson argued that the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, then recently passed by the U.S. Congress, was "one of the most important new developments in human rights." (1) Since then, calls have been made for the European Union to pass its own Magnitsky law, a move that would significantly enhance the recently adopted EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. In January 2014, U.S. Senators John McCain and Ben Cardin introduced the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act with the intention of expanding the Russia-specific sanctions in the congressional act and applying it globally. (2) Within months, the EU was applying asset freezes and travel bans against those deemed responsible for the fatal escalation of violence in Ukraine. (3) When Russia backed the illegal referendum in Crimea, the EU issued visa restrictions and applied asset seizures on 21 persons considered to be part of President Putin's inner circle. The U.S. similarly targeted 11 individuals. (4) The expanded sanctions thereafter became the rallying cry for punishing Russia for its annexation of Crimea and for its key role in destabilizing eastern Ukraine. (5)

This article examines the emergence after 2012 of the U.S. "smart" sanctions against Russia that have targeted specific citizens and/or companies both for human rights violations and for threatening the peace, security, stability or territorial integrity of Ukraine. Beginning with the passing of the Magnitsky Act in Congress in 2012 and concluding with the Ukraine/ Russia-related sanctions issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in 2014-15, the narrative presented here provides the background necessary to analyze the causes and effects of this development in U.S. foreign policy. The sanctions associated with the Magnitsky Act (2012) are intended to address Russia's internal abuse of its own citizens within its borders, while the Ukraine/Russia-related sanctions (2014-2015) address its external infringement on the sovereignty of an independent country. Nonetheless both policies are similar in that they impose targeted sanctions against specific individuals/and or companies rather than on the country as a whole. I argue that, while it is too early to determine their full impact, the new sanctions remain important tools of international statecraft that should continue to be utilized (and even perhaps expanded) by the U.S. towards Russia in the face of limited (and hitherto ineffective) diplomatic efforts.

Drawing on Russian and English language newspapers, congressional hearings, interviews with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and state department officials, I will clarify the distinct facets of this strategy and its development by analyzing the history and impact of both the Magnitsky Act and the Ukraine/Russia-related sanctions. The latter sanctions, in concert with other historical factors, have resulted in severe economic pressure on the Russian state and contributed to diplomatic solutions in eastern Ukraine. The sanctions will continue to be effective, 1 maintain, so long as the United States and the European Union remain united in their efforts overtime. Moreover, the Magnitsky Act has the capacity to limit the freedoms of alleged violators of human rights inside Russia, but this is contingent upon the U.S. providing additional financial and administrative resources to implement the bill.

My argument is informed by the current literature on smart sanctions, most notably the work of Daniel Drezner and Gary Hufbauer, with a specific emphasis on Jonathan Kirshner's micro-foundations approach. …

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