Sunday, January 3, 2016

PF Jan 2016 - Economic Sanctions Against Russia - Con Position

Resolved: On balance, economic sanctions are reducing the threat Russia poses to Western interests.

For the introduction to this topic, click here.

Con Position

There is a great deal of evidence to suggest, thus far, sanctions imposed upon Russia following the annexation of Crimea have failed to alter Russian activities and by extension threats to western interests. Caution is in order, however, since the sanction regime is still in force and perhaps yet to yield its expected results.  Nevertheless, this resolution is not asking us to look into our crystal balls and decide what the future outcome will be. We have to look at what is happening since inception until the day of the debate round you find yourself, and Pro must make its case. Yet look at what has happened since inception. Just to name a few incidents, Russia imposed its own sanctions on the west and in particular EU; formalized its annexation of Crimea; increased support for Pro-Russian groups in Ukraine; failed to comply with the Minsk II agreement; launched a proxy war in Syria in defiance of western interests and requests not to interfere and issued threats to Turkey in response to the downing of a Russian war plane near the Turkish/Syrian border.  Does this sound like a nation that is ready to bow to western hegemony?

The Sanction Regime is Collapsing

Even though the current sanctions will not expire until the the 31st of January 2016, even sources in Russia believe they will be extended and indeed they have been extended. However, it is clear the solidarity of the regime is starting to crack. The economic blow-back against Europe is significant and demonstrates the ability of Russia to threaten western interests as a direct consequence of EU and US sanctions.

Simha 2015:
Economic sanctions on Russia seem to be hurting the imposer more than the intended target. Britain’s oldest conservative think tank, the Bow Group, has published a paper from six Eastern European analysts on the affect of sanctions against Russia on Eastern Europe and the wider West. The report reveals the estimated financial costs of sanctions to the West could exceed $755 billion – roughly equal to the annual US defence budget. The paper details the potential costs: the UK will lose $9.6 billion in exports, 119,000 jobs and $41 billion of Russian capital invested in the country. The US economy is expected to take a hit of $137 billion in trade, including $38 billion in exports, and up to $30 billion in US capital tied up in Russia.

In mid-December, Italy was already signalling an intent to reassess and perhaps suspend support.

Kanter 2015:
"Italy made a procedural move last week that had the effect of preventing the union’s foreign ministers from endorsing the decision on Monday. Unanimity is required; any one of the union’s 28 members can block renewal by signaling its opposition. The Italian foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni, said his country’s position was “not a matter of principle,” and that Italy wanted the union’s national leaders to assess the state of the Minsk agreement before action was taken. “I am sure that we will have a common decision,” he said. Russia is a significant economic partner for Italy. The Italian energy industry has close ties to Gazprom, the Russian state-run natural gas exporter, and important Italian industries like farming and fashion have lost business because of retaliatory measures imposed by Moscow."

Besides the economic impact on certain EU member states, the wider consideration in the EU is the wisdom of alienating a potential important partner in the war against terror and the widening crisis in Syria.

Kanter 2015:
"President François Hollande of France has said that Europe needed to ease its sanctions on Russia. After the terrorist attacks in Paris last month, he flew to Moscow to talk with President Vladimir V. Putin about fighting the Islamic State. “There are signs in Europe of a wider change of thinking on Russia, given the situation in Syria, and Italy is sending particularly strong signals,” said Rosa Balfour, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a research organization. “But it’s probably too early to justify a change of policy because there has been no tangible progress by Russia in Ukraine, and weakening sanctions now would leave Eastern European countries too concerned about their own security.”

Even if Russia ever was a substantial threat to U.S. interests it is clear the actions Russia has taken since the impositions of sanctions have not curtailed and if anything, have increased Russian aggression outside of its national borders.

Poking the Bear

Putin is ambitious and it is reported he is intent upon elevating Russian influence to the level of the US. In many ways, the macro-economy is a a zero-sum game. There is only so much to go around and one nation's gain is another's loss.  If Russia expands its influence, another must recede and this is seen as aggression and threatening. But even if the judge buys the argument that Russia is aggressive or threatening to western interests, Con claims the steps taken by the west have been inadequate to alter the Russian intentions and if anything, have only served to provoke the bear.

Hryckowian 2015:
So far, responses to the new Russian threat have been weak and reactionary. Economic sanctions offer at best a long-term plan to reduce Russian influence, rather than an immediate response to aggressive behavior. The lack of aid rendered to Ukraine to date demonstrates European and U.S reluctance to challenge Russia militarily. Western Europe's reluctance to assist the Baltic States in defense against potential Russian aggression, meanwhile, exposes deep rifts within NATO – and raises worries about the alliance's long-term cohesion. Naturally, these half-measures have done little to temper Russian aggression or deter its strategic goals.

Other areas are now seeing an increasingly provocative Russia which defies any claims of economic sanctions reducing threats. Consider this report from last September after an interview with Latvian Armed Forces Commander, Raimonds Graube.

Riga 2015:
According to Graube, Russia's actions are becoming increasingly pronounced in the sea, where military vessels cruise or hover near other countries' territorial waters, often without rational reason. Likewise, military aircraft for no apparent reason appear near the Baltic countries' borders. They do so with transponders turned off, nevertheless, they are detected thanks to the Armed Forces' new radars. Although Russia's actions cannot be perceived as a direct military threat, the unpredictability is "alarming", as they heighten the risk of conflict, said Graube

Graube claims the Russian actions are "increasingly provocative". Isn't increasing the opposite of reducing, as claimed by the Pro in the resolution?

When we consider the action which sparked the economic sanctions in the first place Con looks to the current situation. After all, the reason for sanctions was a response to claimed Russian aggression within the sovereign borders of Ukraine. One would expect that if sanctions were having the intended effect, Russia would be showing signs of reduced threat in Ukraine. However, as recently as this past December, the EU was still calling for Russian capitulation to the Minsk agreement.

OSCE 2015:
The European Union remains concerned by the volatile and tense situation along the line of contact, where heavy weapons are still being used. We reiterate our call for all sides to take immediate and concrete steps to consolidate the ceasefire and move toward a sustainable political settlement in line with OSCE commitments and principles.

Problem? What Problem?

Finally, I would like to focus this position on the idea the perceived threat was just that; "perceived" but not necessarily legitimate. As it turns out, the U.S. Military was promoting the view that Russia was a threat but not everyone in the U.S. government held that view, including Secretary Kerry of the U.S. State Department.

Brunnstrom 2015:
U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Kerry did not share the assessment, even though Russia's actions in Ukraine posed regional security challenges. "The secretary doesn't agree with the assessment that Russia is an existential threat to the United States, nor China, quite frankly," Toner told a regular news briefing when asked about Dunford's remarks. "You know, these are major powers with whom we engage and cooperate on a number of issues, despite any disagreements we may have with them," he said. "Certainly we have disagreements with Russia and its activities within the region, but we don't view it as an existential threat."

Stephen Kinzer, a visiting fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, agrees and cites a certain comfort-level for some in extending the old cold war mentality but Kinzer saw Russia as a relatively minor force in the world of powers.

Kinzer 2015:
This summer’s most extreme exaggeration of Russia’s power came not from an inveterate Cold Warrior like John McCain or Hillary Clinton, but from the new chairman of our Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford. At his Senate confirmation hearing in July, Dunford said Russia “could pose an existential threat to the United States.” He suggested that, to defend ourselves, we should send aid to Ukrainians who want to fight Russia. Statements like these are bizarre on several levels. First, Russia is a fundamentally weak country with a tottering economy. It is far from being able to compete with the United States, much less threaten it. Second, Russia is surrounded by American military bases, hears threats from the West every day, faces NATO guns on its borders, and therefore has reason to fear for its security. Third, by pushing Russia away, we are driving it toward China, thereby encouraging a partnership that could develop into a true threat to American power.

As it turns out, there are voices in the EU which also understand that Russia is not and never was the recent threat claimed by others. Especially in the light of the existential threat of terrorism again the west, the EU and US are better served by focusing on the real problem. UK politician, Ken Livingstone, tried to refocus his colleagues this past December.

Connett 2015:
Russia was getting a bad press and President Vladimir Putin was being demonised he also claimed. “In Britain no one is told about the discrimination against Russian-speaking people in the Baltic States, no one is told that it was actually pressure from the EU that insisted to the then Ukrainian president that they wouldn’t sign a trade deal unless they stopped negotiating a trade deal with Russia, and then when the president decided that he wouldn’t do that, oddly enough he was overthrown.”

Therefore, judge, Con claims that Russia never was a significant threat to western interests, but even if you don't buy that we have shown how Russian aggression has increased since the impositions of sanctions.  In fact, the alienation and forced isolationism imposed upon Russia has done more to threaten the west by risking the loss of an important ally in dealing with real threats terrorism.

For all these reasons a more, we urge a Con ballot.


Brunnstrom, D (2015), Kerry doesn't view Russia as existential threat: State Department, Reuter News, Jul 10, 2015. Accessed 12/14/2015 at:

Connett, D (2015), Saudi Arabia more of a threat to UK than Russia, says Ken Livingstone, The Indepenedent (UK), Dec 10, 2015. Accessed 12/18/2015 at:

DW News (2015), Diplomats: EU states agree to extend Russian sanctions by six month, DW News, Dec 18, 2015; accessed 12/22/15 at:

Hryckowian, D (2015), Not Your Father's Cold War, US News and World Report, Aug 2015, accessed 12/15/15 at:

Kanter, J (2015), Italy Delays E.U.’s Renewal of Sanctions Against Russia, NYTimes, Dec 14, 2015, accessed Dec 16, 2015 at:

Kinzer, S (2015), Russia is not the enemy, The Boston Globe, Sep 20, 2015. Accessed 12/12/2015 at:

OSCE (2015), EU Statement on Russia’s Ongoing Aggression against Ukraine and Violations of OSCE Principles and Commitments, OSCE Permanent Council N°1083, Vienna, 17 December 2015; accessed 12/24/2015:

Riga, BC (2015), Graube: Russia's actions near Latvia's border "increasingly provocative", The Baltic Course, Sep 22, 2015. Accessed 12/15/2015 at:

Simha, RK (2015), Why sanctions are stupid and spell the end of western influence, Russia and India Report, 29 Sep 2015, access: 12/17/2015 at:

TASS (2015), EU sanctions against Russia bound to continue - source, World Desk, TASS Russian News Agency, Dec. 12, 2015; accessed 12/18/15 at:


  1. What is the impact of the Connett 2015 evidence. I'm a little confused as to what it is trying to point out.

    1. The point of that source, is that much of the perceived threat of Russia may be media hype or propaganda. (Maybe I didn't cut the best part but the article is clear.)

    2. More specific to Connett, as I read it, the charge is made that Russia was provoked by threats from the west, in particular the spread of anti-russian sentiment in the Baltic and alleged western interference in Ukraine.

  2. Thanks! This really helped a lot

  3. Yes! Me and my partner found the con case was so much easier to defend, but didn't have enough information to make choosing con worthwhile, but this helps a lot!

  4. Would you be willing to perhaps send me a strong con case if I gave you my email address? I'm currently running mutually assured destruction, western need for Russian weapons, and Russia's increasing antagonism towards democratic policies. However, I also want a strong backup.
    Also, do you have any cards for what I'm running?

  5. When will you be releasing the LD Aff and neg strategy articles?

  6. Will you be releasing the PF February topic regarding the implementation of carbon tax?


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