Wide-scale sanctions are used against countries that violate treaty terms, as well as countries that violate recognized human rights violations such as the use of chemical weapons or the use of genocide. Other times sanctions are placed against government officials who have participated in human rights violations or anti-democratic actions. In short, sanctions are used as a form of punishment against countries or government officials who violate human rights agreements and other diplomatic agreements.


In February, the US government under President Biden placed sanctions against seven members of the Russian government in retaliation against Russia’s alleged poisoning of a political rival and his subsequent arrest. The EU also placed sanctions against several members of the Russian government although these sanctions are seen as more symbolic than practical.


What Are Sanctions

The European Union’s sanctions against Alexander Batrykin, head of Russia’s Investigative Committee; Viktor Zolotov, head of Russia’s National Guard; Prosecutor Igor Krasnov, and Alexander Kalishnikov who serves as the Director of Russian Federal Penitentiary Service were in response to the alleged assassination attempt of Alexey Navalny and his subsequent arrest. The sanctions against these individuals include freezing assets and travel restrictions throughout the EU. The sanctions are viewed as symbolic since the individuals sanctioned do not have any holding within EU countries. However, sanctions are a political form of punishment and can contribute to an official’s inability to perform their duties.


US Sanctions Against Russian Officials

Some might consider sanctions a warning of difficult relationships to come or a sign that relationships between states are strained. The US government has established sanctions against members of the Russian government that include those sanctioned by the EU and several others. Most notably, President Putin has not been sanctioned. While political observers believe that the government officials sanctioned for human rights violations were following Putin’s orders, no government has ordered sanctions against Mr. Putin.


Political Strategy

If the US or the EU were to sanction Mr. Putin, then any relationship between the countries would terminate. Sanctions are a way of stressing the relationship without ruining it. In this manner, sanctions protect human rights by giving diplomats and countries a tool for negotiation with clear consequences and formidable outcomes.