How isolated is Russia, really?

The Grand Kremlin palace, left, and the Cathedral of the Annunciation, in Moscow on Feb. 22. The ruble tumbled the most since March 2020 after President Vladimir Putin recognized self-declared separatist republics in east Ukraine, deepening a standoff with the West. (Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg News)

As a consequence of its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has become isolated. In a matter of weeks, it went from a highly integrated economy to one of the world’s most heavily sanctioned countries, and governments are going so far as to subvert long-standing policies and traditions to pour weapons and other equipment into Ukraine.

Members of the U.N. General Assembly twice voted to condemn the Russian invasion. Only a handful of countries, including pariah states such as North Korea and Eritrea, sided with Russia.

On Thursday, the General Assembly went further, voting to remove Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council. It was only the second time in the council’s history that one of its 47 members has been suspended, following Libya’s ouster in 2011.

But the act of isolating Russia is not a true global trend. Though the United States, the European Union and other allies have imposed sanctions on Russian oligarchs and armed enemies of the Kremlin, most of the world’s population lives in countries that have not.

Even in the United Nations votes, condemners did not represent a majority of the global population — abstainers and supporters of Russia did.

The result is a bifurcated international story, with only one part of the world condemning the Kremlin and its leader, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and much of the other side acting more like business as usual.

What are economic sanctions, and how did they become Washington’s foreign policy tool of choice?