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Western Sanctions ‘Have No Effect’ On Russia

Maria Zakharova

Maria Zakharova

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman

"If we talk about the effect of such [Western] sanctions [against Russia], they have no effect. None. And I think even the White House understands and acknowledges this."

...experts and data say otherwise

Opinions range on the degree of damage Russia suffered due to U.S. and EU sanctions over the Kremlin’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea territory and backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine. But while most experts attribute the recession that hit Russia in 2015 to declining oil prices, there is general consensus that Western sanctions have contributed as well.

Russian President Vladimir Putin himself told the German newspaper Bild in a January interview that “the sanctions are severely harming Russia” when it comes to the country’s “possibilities on the international financial markets.” He added, however, that “the biggest harm [to Russia’s economy] is currently caused by the decline of the prices for energy.”

This assessment is consistent with those of numerous financial experts, academics, and officials both in Russia and the West. Chris Weafer, a respected Moscow-based financial adviser, says that of the Western sanctions targeting Russian officials and specific sectors of the Russian economy – namely the oil, technology, and financial sectors -- the sanctions on the financial sector “are the most important.”

"When those were applied, there was almost a blanket ban on trade with Russia by credit institutions. You only have to mention financial sector sanctions with U.S. involvement and everyone runs a mile and so they have been disproportionately more damaging,” Weafer told CNBC in August.

Zakharova added in her remarks at a September 8 press briefing in Moscow that the White House has failed to “tear the Russian economy to shreds” with its sanctions. Amid a recovery in global oil prices in 2016, Russia’s economy is indeed expected to see a slowing of its contraction (from 3.7 percent in 2015 to a projected 0.7 percent this year) and growth in 2017, according to a Bloomberg survey of analysts.