The question arises: why did London need a new legal mechanism? There are several answers. First, the United Kingdom, following the example of Washington, draws red lines on the Ukrainian issue. If there is a war, tough sanctions will follow. The American authorities have also made similar statements
, and Congress has already drafted six bills on new sanctions
Secondly, the amendments to the 2019 Regulations insure the current government against criticism from the opposition and the media. The authorities show that they are reacting harshly to the problem and are acting preventively. Other steps, like the supply of arms to Ukraine, fit into this logic quite well.
However, from the point of view of the impact on Moscow, the sanctions amendment will give zero, and possibly even a negative result. There are several reasons.
First of all, Moscow simply cannot make any concessions in response to the threat of sanctions. Moreover, such concessions cannot be discussed after specific steps in the form of amendments, even despite their nature as a signal. Russia is a major power that will not yield to sanctions pressure for fundamental reasons. From the point of view of international law, Russia’s military manoeuvres are absolutely legitimate. It is also important that Russia is unlikely to plan an attack on Ukraine. It's about demonstrating strength and reinforcing its position on Euro-Atlantic security issues.
Secondly, the damage dealt by British sanctions, even if they are applied to the maximum extent, can hardly be critical for Russia. Much more dangerous for Moscow are American sanctions. Obviously, in the event of war, Washington and London will introduce them simultaneously. Moscow can take the damage from sanctions into its calculations, but from the point of view of diplomacy, this means absolutely nothing. Russia will not enter into so-called “meaningful negotiations” as a result of being threatened with sanctions.
Thirdly, the pressure on Moscow does not increase, but rather reduces the security of Ukraine. British policy fits into the well-known formula of “a combination of dialogue and pressure”. However, such a formula does not bring the implementation of the Minsk agreements closer, but rather torpedoes them, encouraging Ukraine to sabotage them, and Russia to freeze the conflict.
Fourth, the threat of sanctions is unlikely to contribute to a constructive dialogue on the Euro-Atlantic security system. There is a tendency to gradually “wind up” this issue, with the assumption that Russian troops cannot be in a state of constant mobilisation at the borders for a long time. But such a policy will not remove the fundamental problems and will only preserve the confrontation with all the ensuing risks, up to an unintentional escalation to a nuclear conflict.
Fifth and finally, Russia usually gives a “mirror response” to sanctions. The question is what this mirror response be like. Hypothetically, we can talk about symbolic visa responses, but it can also be about more serious steps, such as expanding the list of states that commit unfriendly actions against Russia. Such a development would further undermine the already crippled bilateral relationship with the United Kingdom.
The British have a list of arguments as to why Russian military manoeuvres near the borders with Ukraine are counterproductive. They have rational logic. But London could not convey them to Moscow, including with the help of sanctions. Unfortunately, the demonstration of force is once again becoming the norm in international relations. In this sense, Russia can be considered a worthy follower of the United States, but instead of several aircraft carrier groups, its power is concentrated in several armies. By demonstrating strength, Russia is forced to listen to concerns that had previously been ignored for years. The question is how sustainable the results will be. Moscow will surely face a sabotage of its proposals. Tactical success will not necessarily lead to strategic results. But it will be an example for other chapters of textbooks on international relations - on the connection between a show of force and diplomacy.