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Sanctions imposed on Russia: a big change to daily life

Introduction

This year, on the 24th of February, the world witnessed the Russian invasion of Ukraine. After rising tensions, the Russian Government decided to start the ‘special military operation’ which has since claimed thousands of lives. As a result of this conflict, many countries were quick to impose strict economic sanctions on Russia, which have already had their effect on the Russian economy. But what are the consequences of such sanctions on daily life in Russia?

What sanctions have been imposed?

Many countries, among them the US, UK, New Zealand, and the EU member countries, immediately imposed different sanctions to try and stop Russia from further military actions. The more or less immediate reaction of the US government was to ban the export of certain technologies to Russia, which would “make it harder… to modernize [Russia’s] oil refineries.” (Al Jazeera) However, one of the most significant actions the US took was banning Russian oil, which is one of Russia’s biggest exports. Among many others, the EU froze the European assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Russia’s ally country, Belarus, also suffered some consequences as the EU banned imports of products from tobacco, mineral fuels, cement, steel, iron, etc. Many different companies such as IKEA, Spotify, and Apple have also decided to leave Russia. Among them are also Visa and Mastercard who have suspended operations in Russia. This has already had its effects on the Russian economy because people are unable to complete transactions.

Impacts on daily life in Russia

When the war started and the sanctions were imposed, the Russian rouble “plummeted…, leading many retailers to raise their prices.” People living in Moscow believe that while food may not disappear, prices will probably rise exponentially. “On 20 February I ordered groceries for 5,500 roubles [about $57; £44] and now the same basket costs 8,000,” says an EU citizen living in Moscow. While certain retailers are simply limiting the amount of products people can buy, others have “agreed to limit price rises on some staples to 5%”. Moreover, there has been a more than 10% increase in the prices of smartphones and televisions, but many of them quickly sold out before the companies left the Russian market.

International impacts

Perhaps one of the most significant sanctions was one imposed by the US when it banned imports of oil and gas from Russia. The UK has also followed in the US’s steps and has started to “phase out oil imports”. The European Union said it would “move to end its reliance on Russian gas”. 

Why is this important? Along with Iran and Qatar, Russia is home to the largest reserves of natural gas. Half of the world’s natural gas reserves in 2020 were accounted for by the three aforementioned countries. In 2021, 45% of the EU’s gas imports and 40% of its entire gas consumption came from Russia. Despite the EU and other countries announcing plans for ending their reliance on Russian oil and gas, it seems as though these sanctions will have certain long-lasting consequences. As soon as the US stopped such imports from Russia, oil and gas prices started to rise and the same is expected in other countries that have imposed similar bans.

Conclusion

Sanctions imposed on Russia have so far affected its citizens much more than the people with the power to stop the war in Ukraine. However, their long-lasting effects on the conflict remain to be seen. It is true though, that bans on Russian oil and gas from some of the major countries in the world will have great consequences for the world’s economy as people are realizing their economic dependence on Russia and governments who support Ukraine will try to distance themselves from such policies and trade in the future. Daily life in Russia, although already hard, is expected to get harder, as products disappear and soon enough, jobs might also vanish. In this case, Russia will have a very hard time getting its economy back on track and the lives of its citizens back to normal.

Sources

Al Jazeera Staff. “Infographic: How Much of Your Country’s Gas Comes from Russia?” Www.aljazeera.com, 17 Mar. 2022, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/17/infographic-how-much-of-your-countrys-gas-comes-from-russia-interactive. Accessed 19 Mar. 2022.

—. “List of Sanctions against Russia after Ukraine’s Invasion.” Www.aljazeera.com, 3 Mar. 2022, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/25/list-of-sanctions-on-russia-after-invasion.

—. “US Bans Russian Oil: What Is next for Oil and Gas Prices?” Aljazeera.com, Al Jazeera, 9 Mar. 2022, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/9/us-bans-russian-oil-what-does-this-mean-for-oil-prices.

Badshah, Nadeem. “Visa and Mastercard Will Both Suspend Operations in Russia.” The Guardian, 5 Mar. 2022, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/05/visa-and-mastercard-will-both-suspend-operations-in-russia. Accessed 19 Mar. 2022.

Hanbury, Mary, et al. “Here Are the Major US and European Companies Pulling out of Russia Following the Invasion of Ukraine.” Business Insider, 10 Mar. 2022, http://www.businessinsider.com/list-all-the-companies-pulling-out-of-russia-ukraine-war-2022-3#28-tiktok-28. Accessed 19 Mar. 2022.

Shamina, Olga, and Jessy Kaner. “Russia Sanctions: How the Measures Have Changed Daily Life.” BBC News, 13 Mar. 2022, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60647543.

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Analysis

Bottleneck Recession in Germany: when will the situation improve?

Introduction

It is no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has damaged many of the world’s biggest economies. Last year in Germany, however, economists started predicting something called a “bottleneck recession”. Many of the materials that German firms need for production of goods are in short supply, hence harming the supply chain of the economy. But when will the German economy bounce back? And what will be the consequences of such a recession?

What are supply bottlenecks?

One of the most important issues to consider here are supply bottlenecks. A simple analogy for a ‘bottleneck’ would be a machine that is not working efficiently, and hence a long waiting period appears until the final result is delivered. 

In general, this occurs when price increases (inflation) result in an increase in the price of wages as well as raw materials. This causes a decrease in aggregate supply (amount of total production) of an economy. And because the demand for goods does not change (meaning people still want the same amount of goods as before), firms have to increase prices of the goods. The effect is that the increased cost of production is passed onto the consumers by firms.

Recent developments

Global supply chain bottlenecks have been one of the biggest problems in 2021 for many countries. One of the most affected economies was Germany because exports of cars, machine tools and other goods make up approximately half of its economic output. In the US, economic output depends on only 12% of  these types of exports. This sort of dependence on manufacturing and trade makes countries like Germany more susceptible to issues in the supply chain. 

Put simply, if factories do not have the necessary raw materials for production of goods, their economic output and amount of exports will decrease and hence harm the economy. 

It should be mentioned that economic output may have increased in November of 2021, but it also decreased by that same amount in December 2021, hence canceling out any growth seen in the German economy. And with the current Omicron outbreak, it is unlikely the situation will improve anytime soon. Production cuts, staff shortages and restrictions are all results of rising infection rates. Combine this with increasing costs of energy and the country’s going into the aforementioned bottleneck recession. 
However, the future isn’t all uncertain for Germany’s economy. Many think spring will “mark a resumption in the pandemic rebound”. It is expected that “energy prices [will be] digested and supply-chain problems [may be] eased by then” which would lead to growth in the second and third quarters of 2022.

Impacts

Germany already faced consequences of the supply chain bottleneck in 2021 with its car sales rapidly shrinking and “Volkswagen AG deliveries [dropping] to the lowest in a decade, despite robust orders” 

4.1% was the earlier estimate of growth in Germany in 2022, which has now been lessened to 3.6%, mainly because tensions between Russia and Ukraine may result in augmented energy prices, even more so than beforehand. 

All of this was and will be the result of the bottleneck recession in Germany. However, such bottleneck issues in many economies can lead to “corrective behavioral changes over time”. Instead of focusing on efficiency, many countries that did go through supply chain bottlenecks this past year, will hopefully focus on making their economies more resilient as well, to avoid such setbacks in the future.

Conclusion

Today, Germany’s economy is still struggling because of supply shortages, with economic growth declining and the inflation rate increasing in 2021. But there is much hope for the next few years. Germany’s economy is expected to pick back up in the spring of 2022 as infection rates will hopefully decrease and make way for the gains that will likely take place in 2023.

Sources

Deutsche Welle. “Germany’s Bundesbank Lowers 2022 Economic Growth Forecast | DW | 17.12.2021.” DW.COM, 17 Dec. 2021, http://www.dw.com/en/germanys-bundesbank-lowers-2022-economic-growth-forecast/a-60156000.

Ewing, Jack. “Fears of a ‘Bottleneck Recession’: How Shortages Are Hurting Germany.” The New York Times, 5 Oct. 2021, http://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/05/world/fears-of-a-bottleneck-recession-how-shortages-are-hurting-germany.html.

Kenton, Will. “Cost-Push Inflation.” Investopedia, 30 Sept. 2020, http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/costpushinflation.asp#:~:text=Cost%2Dpush%20inflation%20occurs%20when. Accessed 9 Feb. 2022.

Randow, Jana. “Bloomberg – Are You a Robot?” Www.bloomberg.com, 14 Jan. 2022, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-01-14/german-economy-heads-for-recession-after-shrinking-last-quarter. Accessed 9 Feb. 2022.

Rees, Daniel, and Phurichai Rungcharoenkitkul. BIS Bulletin No 48 Bottlenecks: Causes and Macroeconomic Implications. 2021.

Weber, Alexander. “Omicron, Supply Shortages Risk Pushing Germany into Recession.” Www.aljazeera.com, 28 Jan. 2022, http://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2022/1/28/omicron-supply-shortages-risk-pushing-germany-into-recession. Accessed 9 Feb. 2022.

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News

Human Rights Group Shut Down By the Russian Supreme Court

Introduction

Memorial Human Rights Center — the oldest human rights center in Russia — is to be liquidated by the orders of the Russian Supreme Court. The decision was made after the Court revoked the legal status of its sister organization, Memorial, which started off as an initiative group that served the preservation of the memory of Soviet repression. In 2015, the group was marked as a foreign agent in the government register, and the most recent court ruling concluded the lawsuit in which prosecutors warranted the group violated its regulations.

Why is this significant?

On the 28th of December 2021, the court stated that Memorial “creates a false image of the USSR as a terrorist state, [which] whitewashes and rehabilitates Nazi criminals”. The closure of this internationally acclaimed organization marks a point in Russia’s history, as recently, more and more NGOs and media outlets have been closed as a result of the “foreign agent” legislation, apart from the Memorial Human Rights Center. The efforts of independent media to spark a conversation about the crimes under Soviet leaders have been effectively shut down many times showing the sensitivity of the current government to criticisms of the country’s past. 

The decision to close the organization was called “political” by Genri Reznik, a lawyer who represented Memorial in court, among many others. He defended the organization by stating the following: “The Memorial Society promotes the health of the nation. To eliminate this from the history of the country now means to contribute to the idea of ‘the state is always right’.”

Public Outcry

Because of Memorial’s popularity among the Russian public, the group was hoping that large public support might negate the court’s decision. Memorial gathered more than 127,000 signatures in its support, followed up by testimonies from people who uncovered the stories of their relatives as a result of Memorial’s work of obtaining the necessary records. 

People such as the former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and the Novaya Gazeta editor, Dmitry Muratov have also spoken about this issue. “The long-term activity of Memorial has always been aimed at restoring historical justice, preserving the memory of hundreds of thousands of victims during the years of repression, preventing such things now and in the future,” they said in a joint statement.

Police arrested several protesters, out of around 100, who stood outside the court and chanted “shame” when the decision to shut down the group was made.

Conclusion

As such events increase day by day, public outcry becomes more and more significant on a global scale. Memorial, in particular, stated they would appeal the ruling before the European Court of Human Rights. It seems as though the closure of groups such as this one, results in a bigger acknowledgment of Russia’s past than it would have without the court’s extreme verdict. Capturing the attention of international media, the case was commented on by many, including Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywinski, the director of the Auschwitz Museum, saying “A power that is afraid of memory, will never be able to achieve democratic maturity”.

Sources

  1. Al Jazeera. “Russian Court Orders Closure of Leading Rights Group Memorial.” Www.aljazeera.com, 29 Dec. 2021, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/12/28/russia-supreme-court-orders-closure-of-leading-rights-group. Accessed 3 Jan. 2022.
  2. International Memorial. “Memorial – Memorial History. A Timeline.” Memo.ru, http://www.memo.ru/en-us/memorial/memorial-history-timeline/. Accessed 3 Jan. 2022.
  3. Rainsford, Sarah. “Russian Court Orders Oldest Civil Rights Group Memorial to Shut.” BBC News, 28 Dec. 2021, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-59808624. Accessed 5 Jan. 2022.
  4. Roth, Andrew. “Russian Court Orders Closure of Another Human Rights Group.” The Guardian, 29 Dec. 2021, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/dec/29/russian-court-orders-closure-of-another-human-rights-group. Accessed 5 Jan. 2022.
  5. —. “Russian Court Orders Closure of Country’s Oldest Human Rights Group.” The Guardian, 28 Dec. 2021, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/dec/28/russian-court-memorial-human-rights-group-closure. Accessed 3 Jan. 2022.