Sanctions, enablers and collective punishment

We can’t help Ukraine with troops and planes, most politicians insist, but we can hit back at Putin by punishing his friends and choking the Russian economy. This week the long-promised Economic Crime Bill zipped through the Commons and could be law within a month. The Home Secretary said the legislation proves she’s determined to “hobble Putin and his cronies”. But it will do nothing to hurt their ‘enablers’ – the London-based accountants, lawyers and fixers who’ve helped the oligarchs to hide their money and muzzle their critics. Should we try to punish those people too, or does that cross a moral red line?

We don’t need to wait for a new law before we start hurting ordinary Russians with economic sanctions. We’re already punishing extraordinary Russians, from Paralympians to opera singers, with bans and boycotts. Have they all deserved this for the crime of being Russian? Soon visa restrictions will start to trap Russian dissenters in a country that isn't safe for them. Is such "collective punishment" morally justified? What about our own economy, our businesses and their workers? Are we sure we will tolerate squeezing Russia when we have massive rises in the costs of energy and food?

Some global companies are shutting down their Russian operations - at least temporarily. Others have not, though the pressure on them is growing. But is that a commercial decision or a moral one? Do we even want businesses to advertise their virtue, if (as the Nobel-winning economist Milton Friedman put it) the social responsibility of business is solely to increase profits? With broadcaster Isabel Hilton; journalist Niko Vorobyov; City University Professor of Finance and Accounting Atul K Shah and Economist Julian Jessop.

Produced by Olive Clancy