Prof. Sachs: “Sanctions against Russia ineffective and contrary to international law”

The Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development (CIRSD) organized a live discussion, titled “The Winter of Our Discontent”, at the Metropol Palace Hotel in Belgrade. The Center had the privilege to host one of the world’s brightest minds and most famous economists – Prof. Dr Jeffrey Sachs – who is also one of the esteemed authors of the latest edition of our foreign policy journal “Horizons”.

Professor of Columbia University in the USA, Jeffrey Sachs, said today in a discussion with the President of the Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development (CIRSD), Vuk Jeremić, that the US sanctions against Russia are against the international law, but that the past year has shown that they are also quite ineffective. The sanctions were supported by countries inhabited by only 20 percent of the planet's population, while the vast majority of the world refused to impose them on Russia.

"Sanctions against Russia not only did not cripple the Russian economy but had a 'boomerang effect'. They caused major negative global consequences, and Russia did not stop exporting around the world. Sanctions have greatly harmed Europe, because it no longer has access to cheap energy for industry," said Sachs.

He added that the sanctions were first introduced by the "Anglo-Saxon part of the world" - the US, Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, and then by the EU, Japan and South Korea and Singapore: "And that is it. The rest of the world has refused to join the sanctions because it wants to continue trading with both Russia and Ukraine. They do not want to be part of a conflict that they believe must be ended by negotiation. Most of the world, therefore, does not agree with the sanctions against Russia, nor does it agree with the idea that one country just decides on sanctions against another country and then, without any legal basis, tells others to stop trading with the country it imposed sanctions on. That cannot be done," said Saks.

Sachs added that China, India, all Asian countries and Latin America trade with Russia, and they do not want to be part of a ‘proxy war’: "They don't see that war the way the Americans thought they would see it - as an unprovoked attack." "I have spoken with leaders around the world and they understand very well that this is a conflict between two superpowers, Russia and the US, and that not only one side is responsible," Sachs said.

Sachs pointed out that sanctions are "almost never successful in a geopolitical sense," and added: "It's a cheap and easy policy that America has been pursuing for years and it has failed over and over again. America often uses sanctions because there is no money allocated for them from the budget, but they can do a lot of damage and do not require public debate and the approval of the US Congress. The public doesn't really understand what it's about, but who cares. "Sanctions are introduced with the signature of the US president, which is different from sanctions approved by the United Nations," Sachs said.

Sachs stated that there is no doubt that "there is an ongoing war between America and Russia, even though Ukrainian citizens are being killed."

"Weapons, intelligence, war financing - everything is provided by America and its allies, so it's a war between America and Russia, and that's not good because they are nuclear superpowers." "Contrary to American propaganda, which claims that 'madman Vladimir Putin' started the war for no reason in February 2022, the facts show that the war started in February 2014," said Sachs. "The cause is, among other things, America's intention to introduce Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, which was said in 2008 by then US President George Bush." That was not wise, but very stupid," added Saks.

Sachs reminded that the West's promise to Russia that NATO would not expand "even an inch to the east" after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that America had broken that promise: "There is no neutrality in the minds of Americans, only 'you are with us or you are against us'." In 2014, America helped overthrow former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who balanced between the US and Russia. Then the war started. By 2021, America has invested billions of dollars in arming Ukraine. "Fortification of eastern Ukraine lasted eight years with the help of American money, weapons and know-how," underlined Sachs.

Sachs stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin stated at the end of 2021 that the Americans had crossed all the red lines, and that Russia's red line was "stopping the expansion of NATO and setting up military bases on the border with Russia and weapons that can affect Russia ".

"The response from the White House was that there was nothing to discuss and that America was certainly not going to talk to Russia about NATO expansion, and then Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine." "The war broke out because of the escalating conflict of the previous 30 years and, unfortunately, a lot of cheating on the part of America," Sachs said.

Sachs stated that, in his opinion, it is possible to stop the war in Ukraine if Ukraine commits to being militarily neutral and not joining NATO, if Russia keeps Crimea and if the Donbass region in the east of Ukraine gets autonomy.

Jeremić pointed out that some historians and politicians compared the war in Ukraine with the Korean War of the 1950s in the previous year. "It was the first 'hot conflict' that broke out during the Cold War," Jeremic said.

Jeremić added that, if this logic is followed, the war in Ukraine could have been the first "hot conflict of the second cold war", in which the main belligerents early USA and China: "Viewed from Serbia, it seems that the division that is emerging in the world is not as binary as it seemed that it could be, because coalitions are emerging that could be tied to regional powers, but they could also cooperate with each other from time to time" concluded Jeremić.


We are proud that our event caught the attention of more than 400 people. The gathering was attended by journalist Ljiljana Smajlović, former ambassador to the FRY William Montgomery, writer Muharem Bazdulj, professors Slobodan Samardžić and Milo Lompar, president of the Democratic Party Zoran Lutovac, professor Bojan Pajtić, former governor of the NBS Dejan Šoškić, former Serbian ambassador to the USA Ivan Vujacić, analyst Miša Đurković, former ambassador of the FRY in Mexico Vesna Pešić, MPs, representatives of the diplomatic corps, journalists and public figures.

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