If Niccolo Machiavelli – that father of political pragmatism – was assessing the past year of unjust and immoral war in Ukraine, he would have noted early and often how the west has been funding both sides in the conflict.
Much-needed arms, weaponry and military training is being supplied to beleaguered Ukrainian forces, along with hard-cash transfers.
However, there is also huge volumes of money being spent on Russian oil, which helps fund their murderous invasion.
It brings us swiftly to the issue of economic sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s Russia. This time one year ago, in the early days of the invasion, we were hearing much about these punitive moves.
Products affected have ranged from coal to caviar. There are frozen assets and travel bans affecting almost 1,500 individuals linked to the invasion. There has been a concerted move to close off products which could be used by Russia to prosecute its shameful invasion.
We are now looking at round 10 of EU sanctions against Moscow. These measures have certainly inconvenienced Russia and slowed its economy. But day-to-day life for most Russians continues. President Putin does not have to answer to the electorate in any meaningful way for the consequences of his so-called “special operation” in Ukraine.
So, another learning from a year of conflict in Ukraine is that sanctions are a slow burner. They can, at times, be counterproductive, inflicting almost as much hurt on those trying to apply the punitive measures as the target regime.
Like so much else about this invasion of Ukraine, these sanctions are likely to be in place for the medium to longer term.
If you could imagine some unlikely magic formula leading to a cessation of hostilities, there could still be many hanging threads to sustain economic measures, such as war reparations, reconstruction costs and accountability for war crimes.
We note, with admiration, the work of one of Ireland’s most distinguished EU officials, David O’Sullivan. Since January, he has taken over responsibility for EU sanctions.
Mr O’Sullivan argues persuasively that the sanctions against Putin’s Russia are taking effect. He is convincing in his assertion that EU-US dialogue and co-operation are well advanced on the issue.
But he is also candid about the need to address how falling trade between the EU and Russia contrasts with growing trade between Russia and other countries.
It seems reasonable to join the dots and explore the possibility that this may well lead to indirect trade with Russia.
There is also a need to persuade more nations to show solidarity with the US, EU, UK and others, on the sanctions question. This calls for continual dialogue with Asian, African and other nation states in efforts to persuade co-operation.
In the medium to longer term, we know that sanctions can really bite, as illustrated by the impact on the South African apartheid regime of the 1970s and 1980s. Sanctions against Putin’s dire conduct can also bear results.