Why is the USA able to damage the Russian economy by imposing sanctions but Russia can't do the same?

  • Why is the USA able to damage the Russian economy by imposing sanctions but Russia can't do the same?

    For example see U.S. tightens sanctions on Russia over Crimea, New US sanctions on Russia inflame old tensions, as well as many more reports.

    An aside, but that may interest you for historic/empirical examples: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embargo_Act_of_1807

    Russia is NOT Cuba. Besides the old economic issue brought forward from USSR era, I am still curious about the "damaging effect" as many hallucinate here. It seems most people that agree on the "damage done to Russia" has a poor understanding of geography.

    @anonymous it is a play on words. Your question can be (mis-)interpretted as "Why can't russia damage the russian economy, like the US can?". And the answer to that is that it Can and Has. Russia has a history of banning various imports and exports to its own (lesser or greater) detriment as part of making a political stance (Much like the rest of the world, really), I'm no political scientist nor historian nor economist though, so I'm not sure of any particularly notable examples of this.

    You're better off asking this question at the economics site https://economics.stackexchange.com/

    Assuming profit losses are the same on both sides, a larger economy suffers less than a smaller one.

    @DmitryGrigoryev This seems an odd definition of suffering. If I take $1 from each of a million people, does that create less suffering than if I take $1,000 from one person? Surely the fact that it's a million people suffering in the first case and only one person suffering in the first case weighs into the assessment of how much suffering there is.

  • SQB

    SQB Correct answer

    5 years ago


    The economical relation between the USA and Russia is asymmetrical. Russia depends a great deal on its trade with the USA, while the USA don't depend much on their trade with Russia.

    Export from the USA to Russia is worth about $13.2 billion.
    Export from Russia to the USA is worth about $10.2 billion.

    Those numbers make the USA Russia's 7th largest export destination at 4.2% and its 3rd largest import origin at 5.5%.
    In contrast Russia is only responsible for 0.74% of the USA's exports and 0.61% of their imports.

    The USA can hurt Russia far more, economically speaking, than Russia can hurt the USA. If all trade between the USA and Russia stopped, the USA would only be hurt for 0.74% of their exports and 0.61% of their imports, while Russia would be hurt for 4.2% of its exports and 5.5% of its imports.


    The sanctions on Russia aren't imposed by the USA alone. The EU, another large trade partner imposes similar sanctions. Individual EU countries may be hurt by them as well, if Russia is a particularly large trade partner, but again the relation isn't symmetrical, at Russia's detriment.

    Isn't it reasonable to assume that every trade benefits both sides of the trade roughly equally? And therefore wouldn't it follow that roughly the units of harm on both sides are equal? The US might be able to tolerate more harm than Russia can, and the damage might be different in percentage terms, but shouldn't it still be roughly equal in absolute numbers?

    @DavidSchwartz: Yes, but absolute numbers are meaningless. If I threaten to reduce your salary by $1000, and you threaten to reduce mine by $1000 as payback, if your salary is $10K/year, and mine is $1M/year, you're going to suffer terribly, and I'm not even going to notice. We both lost the same absolute amount, but that's not particularly reassuring if you're eating Kibble and living in a cardboard box.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM