ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Sanctions in Ukraine War

The Racial Tilting of International Politics

This article critically looks at the international sanctions regime in the context of the recent Russia–Ukraine war. It explores the complex power bias of international sanctions, its intricate politics of “otherisation,” the racial tilting of the sanctions regime, making the pathway for limited effectiveness of sanctions.

A draft version of the article was presented at a national workshop organised by the National Institute of Advanced Studies in collaboration with Kristu Jayanti College in Bengaluru on 23 May 2022.

The beginning of the Russia–Ukraine war 2022 comes hand in glove with international sanctions against the aggressor—primarily, Russia in this case. Even before this agg­ression, the sanctions against Russia were brewing in anticipation of it. However, most of these measures, targeting Russia econo­mically and socioculturally, were not consolidated into collective military efforts. While sanctions encompass the enforcement of penalising mea­sures against the violators of international laws, and provide a cushion for the maintenance of international peace and security, their efficacy seems to have simply depended upon who the agg­ressor is and how the aggressor is placed in the global power dynamics.

While Western dominance, tagged ine­xtricably with White privilege, permeates the disciplinary domain of international relations, its extension as one of the central organising features of world politics needs to be reckoned with. In other words, “Race continues to shape international and domestic thr­eat perceptions and consequent foreign policy” (Zvobgo and Loken 2020). What remains worth noting concerning sanctions vis-à-vis the Russia–Ukraine war is how threat perceptions and consequent applicability of sanctions are construed based on racial identities. The article, therefore, critically looks into the international sanctions regime (henceforth the sanctions) in the past and in the ongoing Ukrainian crisis. The past, being reminiscent of the “wilful amnesia, on the question of race,” is all the more imp­ortant to recall in this regard (Krishna 2001: 401). In this process, the article exp­lores the complex power bias of the sanctions and the intricate politics of “otherisation” of which racism becomes key. The international relations practice when seen particularly in the light of sanctions also underpins the “white subject positioning” of the West (Sabaratnam 2020). It may not, therefore, be pre-emptive to say that the Anglo-Saxon imagination of crisis, like that of the Russia–Ukraine war, is rooted in imperialism and interracial relations, and is furthered through the global colour line as was envisaged by W E B Du Bois (Du Bois 1925; cited in Anievas et al 2014). The endeavour, thus, is also to explore the racial tilting of the sanctions, making the pathway for the limited effectiveness of sanctions.

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Updated On : 3rd Oct, 2022
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