Fewer shells, more penalties: the modern weapon of war is economical

At least 1,275 new sanctionswith in particular the exclusion of Russia from the international financial system. This is the response of many countries around the world to Vladimir Putin’s recognition of the Ukrainian separatist republics, then to the armed invasion.

The current crisis is proving to be a striking example of the use of what is called “geoeconomics”. It can be defined, in the context of foreign policy, as the use of economic instruments to influence the political objectives of another country.

Already in 1989, in a prophetic article, the specialist in American military strategy Edward Luttwak foresaw its generalization. According to him, in the dual context of globalization and the end of the Cold War, the balance of power was going to be based more on the economy than on military means.

The advent of «globalisation» had been announced in 1983 by Theodore Levitt, an economist at Harvard Business School, where he was editor-in-chief of the journal for four years. He pointed to the fact that the markets were entering into a growing dynamic of interconnections on a global scale. The phenomenon has not weakened since: to believe the KOF index created by a Swiss economic institute, the intensity of the globalization of commercial and financial exchanges has doubled over the past fifty years.

At the same time and in the context of the end of the Cold War, we have witnessed a spectacular evolution of the forms of warfare. While conflicts between several states have become rarer, tensions and conflicts within a single state have more than doubled.

In 2020, there were thus only three interstate conflicts in the world against around fifty civil wars. Among them, Syria, Ethiopia, Burma and Mali. In all these countries, the state is struggling with components of civil society that oppose each other and/or it. This is one of the hallmarks of our time: war, long an expression of the (super)power of States, is today most often the sign of its collapse.

Double interest

This decrease in the number of interstate conflicts does not mean that the states, especially the richest and most powerful, have given up defending or imposing their interests. They just tend to resort to other power toolsmore economical than military.

This shift from military geopolitics to geoeconomics stems largely from the interdependence engendered by economic globalization. Admittedly, the traditional geopolitics has not disappeared, but its exercise is based on the weapons of our time: less steel and more capital, less shells and more sanctions. As Joseph Nye, a great American power theorist often considered the liberal counterpart of the more conservative Samuel Huntington, asserts, with globalization, political actors tend to replace the threat of military sanctions with economic sanctions.

The reason for this is twofold: the geoeconomic balance of power targets the very foundations of globalization, i.e. the creation of value, without permanently destroying capital, infrastructure, cities, or directly killing people, as does conventional warfare.

Under sanctions, the positive-sum game of liberal globalization becomes a zero-sum game: not everyone wins when geoeconomics comes into play.

A new age of sanctions

The quantitative and structural examination of the nature of the sanctions imposed by States on others shows to what extent the grammar of conflictuality has evolved. Not only has the number of sanctions more than doubled since 1990 but, above all, their nature has changed.

Traditional sanctions, such as arms or trade embargoes, remain today. However, those that have experienced the greatest growth are directly linked to that of financial globalization and the mobility of people. Financial integration, better tracking of payments, the extraterritoriality of American law associated with the prevalence of the use of the American dollar, and a desire to use targeted sanctions have contributed to this diversification of geoeconomic instruments.

The new age of sanctions also concerns their objectives. Today, the majority is the initiative of the United States and the European Union, that is, countries that have strong economic bargaining power. They often aim to enforce their founding principles abroad such as human rights and the guarantee of the rule of law. Evidenced by the aggregated data within the Global Sanctions Database.

However, sanctions do not always achieve their objectives. On average, we can consider that they only meet with total success in barely more than a third of the cases. For Ukraine, we can then fear that geoeconomics will give way to classic geopolitics, especially if Russia manages to strengthen its trade with economic partners remained neutral, such as China. kyiv’s allies are already moving towards a long-term military supportwith the dispatch of heavy weapons.

Finally, it seems important not to forget that economic sanctions may not generate the expected objectives while having terrible consequences for the populations subjected to them. The works by historian Nicholas Mulder on the First World War and the colonial empires, for example, are there to remind us.

This article is republished from The Conversation sous licence Creative Commons. Lire l’article original.

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Source: Slate.fr by www.slate.fr.

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