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Dilemma; Economic Sanctions on Russia

DilemmaEconomic Sanctions on Russia


Manycountries now are facing dilemma on the cause of action that theyshould take in response to the ongoing conflict between Russia andUkraine over Crimea. The dilemma is whether it is justified forRussia to face sanctions for it recent take over Crimea. Ininternational relations, countries associate with each other tobenefit from each other in terms of trade and social ties. However,this relationship is based on both mutual respect of the independenceand values of each of the countries. This means that if a countryviolates the rights and mutual respect principle of other countries,it gives way for unfriendly relations.

Tosolve the dilemma, countries should consider issues of ethics asanalyzed by the consequences of placing sanctions on Russia. Thedilemma presents choices that will introduce element of friendlinessor unfriendliness of a country towards Russia. This is the reason whycountries give sanctions on the basis of political and economicrelationship with the country.

Thispaper will adopt the theories of utilitarianism and virtue ethics todiscuss the elements of the dilemma based on the internationalenvironment. In this case, application of utilitarian theory willfocus on the resulst of the consequences of sanctions on Russia onthe majority. However, the virtue ethics analyses the decision basedon whether the sanctions are right or wrong in the universal ethics.

Thisexplains why countries the consideration of the economic anddiplomatic fronts makes the dilemma a hard decision to call by manycountries. This paper will also take an opinion based on thecomprehensive perspectives of economic, political and socialinterests that each country is considering as well as per theguidance of the theories.


Thedilemma of whether to place trade sanctions against Russia is alsocomplex due to the current political situation in and around Ukraine.The situation is also faced with an international environment that isrestraining in meddling with another country’s interests. Accordingto the United States democratic principles, it is important to takeaccount of the decisions taken by Ukrainians and Russians, alltogether. Placing economic sanctions will mean that a country issupporting Ukraine at the expense of Russian economy. On the otherhand, avoiding economic repercussions against Russia, and that acountry is supporting Russia at the expense of international peaceand Ukraine (Smithand Eshchenko 1).This makes a country feel at very strong crossroads on the dilemma.

Theinternational community has a responsibility to ensure that eachcountry has its independence. Therefore, countries would be justifiedto protect any country no matter its historical association withother countries as long as it is an independent country. This meansthat any country can comfortably disassociate itself with Russia inorder to protect the interests of Crimea as a country. However, thedilemma is that these countries are not sure whether Crimea should betreated as an independent country or as a constituent state inUkraine. It is important to determine the independence of Crimeadespite the vote they took to join Russia (Smithand Eshchenko 1).

Itis a dilemma on whether to apply sanctions to a country that welcomeda state out of its own will. The vote that Crimea did in a referendumto join Russia was overwhelmingly supported by its citizens whichmade the country a part of Russia (MacFarquhar1).Therefore, many democratic countries are refraining from taking quicksteps to place economic sanctions against a country that has a validinternational reason for it steps. Currently Russia takes the excusethat it did not annex or take Crimea over instead, Russia arguesthat it received the Crimea after the state voted massively to joinit. This makes independent countries have a dilemma on the issue byavoiding the push for economic sanctions.

However,the dilemma is complicated by the fact that the vote and decisiontaken by Crimea to join Russia was not an independent decision.Instead, Crimea was a coerced decision due to the show of might byRussia (MacFarquhar1).The country made deliberate move to send military to Crimea evenbefore the state took a referendum to stay independent, join Ukraineor join Russia. The presence of Russian military in Crimea changedthe direction of Crimea where the vote was just a formality (Smithand Eshchenko 1).From the observations made by the news reporters, it was clear thateven if Crimea did not vote, Russia was determined to annex the stateback to its control. This makes other countries see the need to placeeconomic sanctions against Russia so as to prevent future incidentsof forced take over.

VirtueEthics Theory

Accordingto virtue ethics, ethical considerations require hard decisions thatconsider the wrong versus the right decisions. In perspective, is themain issue facing countries at the moment in regard to theRussia-Ukraine standoff. This is an ethical issue because countrieswill be affected by the decision of other countries to placesanctions over Russia. It is further made an ethic issue because theoutcome of both sides of the dilemma depends solely on the decisiontaken by other countries (MacKinnon &amp Fiala 13). Furthermore, theworld will not have the same advantage that Russia already hasadvantage over Ukraine. This therefore brings the issue of fairnessin the international arena and practice of international relations.

Asan ethical issue, union of countries like the European Union will beconsidering crucial market results should only they impose sanctionson Russia. From the ethical point of view, these countries have noformal authority but ethical responsibility to do so. This is becauseall ethics that lead to right decisions are deemed to be based on theuniversality of the ethics to be considered for every situation (Lee1). Therefore, Russia, Ukraine and their allies will face someconsequential circumstances from the decision taken by worldcountries. This explains why the decision made should be made asguided by ethics.


Utilitarianis a philosophical doctrine that considers things to be right if theyare of use by the majority or at least the majority in the societybenefit from them. This means that economic sanctions should only beplaced on Russia if the action does not harm the majority involved inthe conflict and in the world. According to the theory, an action isright as long as it promotes the happiness of the greatest numberwhich is the majority in the community (Lee 1). The normative ethicstheory states the most beneficial course of action in any stats theone that maximizes utility which in the end is simply brings thehappiness and reducing suffering. The moral value of an action canonly be established by the resulting consequence but the consequencemust be evaluated along the intended outcomes.

Ifutilitarianism will be considered, many countries should not makedecisions without considering economic, political and social resultsof their move. From the concept of utilitarianism, the best way toapproach the dilemma is to consider the people involved in theconsequences of the decision. Therefore, word countries and unions ofcountries may experience further delays before making any moves onthe decision. However, he should not give the basis for countries tosee Russia ruin an independent country without taking any action asgiven by their universal duty to uphold ethics.

Utilitarianismapplies in this dilemma by providing a framework of deciding whetherit is wrong or right to take any action (Lee 1). In making thedecision, many countries will be considering the results of theirdecisions as well as the people who will be affected. As one of thebest known consequentialist theory, utilitarianism focuses on theresults of the decision making process in regard to ethicalconsiderations (Lee 1). In deciding to do what is right or wrong, themain consideration will be the stakeholders that will be affected bythe situation under the analysis. Therefore countries will takedecision based on the benefits that such an action will have on theRussians and Ukrainians as well as the countries that depend on thesetwo nations.

Weaknessesof the theories

Thetwo theories fall short of incorporating all the circumstances in theRussia-Ukraine problem. In whether to sanction Russia or not,utilitarianism certainly concludes that the option with the less evilor the lower number of sufferers should be adopted. Therefore, autilitarian will advice countries to sanction when few people willsuffer, it does not consider that people are already suffering inUkraine. On the other hand, virtue ethics would recommend thatsanctions should not be placed since it is against the ethics ofuniversal good. However, this theory also does not consider that bycapturing Crimea and threatening Ukraine, Russia has also done an actagainst universal ethics. The dilemma on the conflict between the twocountries is anchored on the utilitarianism`s view against that ofvirtue ethics.


Inmy opinion, utilitarianism presents more practical and more logicalrationale for choosing the course of action on the dilemma. Inapplying the ethics in the Russian situation and dilemma, countriesshould therefore consider the benefits and harms of placing sanctionsnot only to the stakeholders but also on countries that depend onRussia and Ukraine. The fact that utilitarianism recommends theoption that promotes more goodness to greater number of people meansthat the decision by countries on placing sanctions on Russia willconform to universal ethics.


Lee,Eugene. An Introduction toUtilitarianism. Web, Accessed, April22, 2014,&lthttp://www.victorianweb.org/philosophy/utilitarianism.html&gt

MacFarquhar,Neil. UnderRussia, Life in Crimea Grows Chaotic.Web, Accessed, April 22,


MacKinnon,Barbara &amp Fiala Andrew. Ethics:Theory and Contemporary Issues. Cengage Learning, 2014


Smith,Matt and Eshchenko, Alla. Ukrainecries `robbery` as Russia annexes Crimea.Web,

Accessed,April 22, 2014&lthttp://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/18/world/europe/ukraine-crisis&gt