Sanctions and Patient Diplomacy: Having It All or Just a Diversion?

The British Foreign Policy Group’s latest report, Sanctions and Patient Diplomacy: Having it All or Just a Diversion?, finds that sanctions against Russia have led to a significant degree of trade diversion, are contributing to a splintering of previously globalised trade routes, into Eastern- and Western-dominated routes, and are inhibiting the UK’s broader security and prosperity objectives by impacting the ‘patient diplomacy’ agenda of engagement with ‘middle-ground’ powers.

The report explores how sanctions on Russia have not sufficiently constrained Moscow, which continues to gain revenues from trade in sanctioned goods. Moreover, sanctions and trade controls have enabled Russia to deepen economic relations with a number of countries, many of which are key ‘middle ground” powers, and some of which are nations explicitly hostile to the West, such as Iran and North Korea. Though the latter axis remains a significant threat to UK security, the report finds that the UK should be careful not to undermine its relationships with the ‘middle ground’ powers by maintaining a narrow focus on the sanctions issue, at the expense of broader strategic collaboration.



David Landsman, Senior Adviser at the British Foreign Policy Group, says: The argument for imposing sanctions is in some cases overwhelming. But making sanctions watertight can be far easier said than done, and have unforeseen impacts on relationships with countries which are increasingly important for our foreign policy. With this paper, we hope to provoke a debate on how to reconcile the urgent need to make sanctions bite, with the strategic exercise of “patient” diplomacy which the UK has rightly emphasised.

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Dr Rebecca Harding and Dr David Landsman

Dr Rebecca Harding is a BFPG Senior Research Fellow, and Dr David Landsman is BFPG's Senior Advisor.