Western sanctions against Russia have been "very effective" in cutting off Russia's war machine, a U.S. official asserted, amid growing questions about Moscow's ability to circumvent the measures.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Robin Dunnigan, a deputy assistant U.S. secretary of state, said the economic sanctions imposed after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 were putting pressure on Moscow, and "we will see the results of that in the coming months and years."
Russia's economy has been squeezed by the Western sanctions, contracting around 2.7 percent in 2022, according to Western estimates, but not as badly as some Western governments had hoped. Russia continues to export oil and gas, despite Europe all but cutting itself off, and that's allowed Moscow to bring in sizable revenues.
The International Monetary Fund predicted Russia's economy will expand just 0.3 percent in 2023, which is an improvement from earlier forecasts of a contraction up to 2.3 percent.
The Russian economy has also held up surprisingly well due to long-standing conservative fiscal policies and revenues from natural-resource sales overseen by President Vladimir Putin that filled public coffers and its rainy-day funds, including ample reserves of both gold and Chinese yuan.
Some experts say Moscow has as least three more years of funding to continue the war at the current pace of operations.
Russia has also managed to circumvent many of the restrictions on dual-use technologies, such as semiconductors, through increased trade with countries like China. China, India, and other countries have also stepped in to replace supply chains for consumer goods like smartphones, appliances, and cars and trucks.
In the interview, Dunnigan also accused Belarus, which has provided logistical support for Russian troops, of being an "accomplice" in the war.
"I do not think that Belarusians want a war against Ukraine to be waged from their country. Therefore, I do not think that he represents the will of his own people," she said. "And I think that's tragic. I think that the consequences for the Belarusian people, who did not want to have anything to do with it, are truly terrible."
She said the United States continued to press Belarus for free and fair elections. Strongman leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka claimed reelection to the presidency in 2020, sparking months of unprecedented streets protests and further isolation from the West.
Dunnigan was scheduled later to travel to Poland to meet with Polish officials about the situation in Belarus.
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