WASHINGTON, September 25 (RIA Novosti) – Japan's decision to impose additional sanctions against Russia is poorly timed and was most likely driven by geopolitical considerations, Richard Wellings, Deputy Editorial Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), told RIA Novosti Thursday.
"Since the sanctions will harm Japan and other countries, as well as Russia, it is likely that the decision has been driven by geopolitical considerations rather than economics," Wellings said.
"The timing also seems unhelpful, given the continuing efforts to de-escalate the hostilities in eastern Ukraine," the expert added.
Wellings noted that economic sanctions harm individuals and businesses that bear no responsibility for the actions of their governments.
"The victims of such "collective punishment" include residents of countries that are not even involved in the relevant political dispute," Wellings said, adding that "By hindering trade, sanctions lower output and reduce economic opportunities."
"In this context, the recent actions of the Japanese government are highly questionable in ethical terms," Wellings concluded.
The Japanese government imposed additional sanctions against Russia on Wednesday, targeting five major Russian banks, including Sberbank and VTB.
The sanctions also target Gazprombank and Rosselkhozbank, Russia's third and sixth-largest banks in terms of net assets, as well as Vnesheconombank, a state corporation that manages Russian state debts, pension funds and other state financial activities.
This is the fourth round of sanctions Japan has imposed on Moscow since spring. The first three rounds were introduced later than those of Japan's Western partners and were significantly milder.
Wellings noted that Japan is most likely trying to gain favor with Washington by imposing sanctions against Russia, as it is heavily dependent on the United States for security.
"It [Japan] is feeling increasingly vulnerable due to its long-term economic malaise and the rapidly growing economic and military strength of China, its main regional rival," the expert said.
"It is therefore unsurprising that the Japanese government should wish to gain favour with the US by participating in the sanctions campaign," he added, noting that this sanctions policy is highly unlikely to be effective.
"It will almost certainly backfire on the governments that have instigated it," Wellings stressed, noting that "With Japan and parts of the EU still suffering a prolonged slump, the ratcheting up of tensions and increased uncertainty will damage economic confidence and deter the private investment that is needed to bring recovery."
"The sanctions will also drive Russian trade towards China and other emerging markets, with the EU and Japan potentially losing a valuable source of future growth," Wellings noted.