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Difficult expulsion of Moscow on the international stage

Russia “more isolated than ever”? Two months after the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, the confirmation of US President Joe Biden seems like a pious hope, as the expulsion of Moscow still hits part of the international community, which is reluctant to give any consent.

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“There is a very clear isolation of Russia from the Western bloc, mainly due to a series of subsequent sanctions that have complicated both trade and financial exchanges,” said Sylvie Matelly, deputy director of the Institute for International and Strategic Relations (Iris).

“As for Russia’s isolation on the international stage, on the other hand, the situation is very different, with a number of very cautious countries that have refused to submit to Western pressures and assume that they will settle in their souls and consciences,” the French researcher added.

The Russian military offensive, launched on February 24, provoked almost immediate outrage among Europeans and Americans, who promised Moscow isolation and “unprecedented” sanctions.

In the following weeks, NATO and EU airspace were closed to Russian aircraft, and the United States imposed an embargo on Russian oil and gas imports. At the same time, some Russian banks are being excluded from the international Swift payment system.

But outside the Western Bloc, the picture is different. On March 2, India and South Africa, in particular, abstained in the UN General Assembly in a vote calling for Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine.

In Latin America, Brazil and Mexico are refusing to participate in sanction packages.

“There are a growing number of countries that are willing to assert their independence despite the fact that they want closer cooperation with the West and even need the support of the West,” notes Chris Landsberg, a professor of international relations at the University of Johannesburg. columns of the Washington Post.

“It is one thing to condemn the invasion of Ukraine, it is quite another to start an economic war against Russia, and many countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia are not ready to jump,” the former Chilean ambassador to India said. South Africa, Jorge Heine. “They don’t want to be pushed into a position that would be against their own interests.”

This is the case in Saudi Arabia or the Emirates, which have so far avoided taking a stand on Russia. Or India.

For New Delhi, “the war was accompanied by a brutal and unwelcome choice between the West and Russia, an election that avoided at all costs,” explains Shivshankar Menon, who advised former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan. Singh.

“The United States is a vital and indispensable partner in the context of India’s modernization, but Russia remains an important partner for geopolitical and military reasons,” he said in an article published in early April entitled “Fantasy of the Free World.” “Are democracies really united against Russia?”

On the spot, however, Western powers are sparing efforts to increase pressure on Moscow. At UNESCO, some forty countries have intensified talks in recent months to move the Heritage Committee, which is scheduled for June in Russia.

With the result, at this stage, in a semitone: notice of the postponement indefinitely, without assurances at this stage that Russia will not host the meeting once the military offensive is completed.

The same attempt at the G20, where the Indonesian presidency in a hurry to expel Moscow from the closed space, eventually refused in the name of impartiality.

It also does not help the hesitant countries to convince the lack of short-term effects of Western economic sanctions on the ongoing conflict.

“Yes, the sanctions are severe,” said Judne Dempsey, an analyst at Carnegie Europe, “but they do not deter Putin from prolonging the siege of Mariupol (…) or from pounding other cities.”

“If the goal was to bend Putin out of Ukraine, it’s clear it didn’t work,” says Sylvie Matelly. “He has certainly reduced his ambitions, but not so much in relation to sanctions as in relation to the determination of Ukrainian forces on the ground.”

We will have to wait a few more months to measure the impact of sanctions on the Russian economy in the medium and long term.

“The situation in the Russian economy will be clearer in June to July,” notes Russian financial analyst Alexei Vedev of the Gaidar Institute. “The economy is still operating on the basis of its reserves.”

“These reservations are diminishing, but as long as they still exist, sanctions are not fully felt,” he added.