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Western sanctions fatigue and economic ‘bombs’ play into Putin’s ...

World

Western sanctions fatigue and economic ‘bombs’ play into Putin’s hands

The former have not deterred the Russian president and cracks in the West’s ‘united’ front are not helping economies

Lionel Laurent

The momentum behind Western sanctions against Vladimir Putin is flagging. Even as the EU toasts its toughest restrictions yet against the Russian war machine, including a partial ban on oil imports, concessions are mounting, from exempting pipeline crude to removing Putin’s favourite cleric from the sanctions list.

Hungary’s Viktor Orban, an admirer of Putin, is clearly playing a big role in splintering the united front. But the risk of fatigue and waning morale goes well beyond Budapest. The cost of hitting Putin where it hurts, energy, is preying on many leaders’ minds at a time of high inflation and economic slowdown, as is the grim sight of Russia’s advance regaining momentum after 100 days of fighting.

With differences of opinion percolating inside and outside the EU over what an endgame might look like, this doesn’t bode well for the near term. Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas, who now must reassemble her governing coalition after its collapse last week, is keen to keep tightening the screws on Moscow. But she acknowledges everything will get more “difficult” from here, with little chance of a gas embargo in the next raft of restrictions...

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