The limitations of U.S. sanctions dealing with Russia are becoming more apparent


The author is a senior researcher at Harvard Kennedy School

Economic sanctions have become a hammer in the U.S. diplomatic toolbox and have been used as a nail in foreign policy many times. The idea is to punish bad behavior without starting a war.But they are forcing behavior changes and President Joe Biden threatens to impose “The economic consequences he has never seen before” Vladimir Putin is unlikely to be particularly effective against Russia.

The invasion of Ukraine will face “a series of far-reaching economic measures, which we have avoided in the past”, according to reports. Secretary of State Anthony BrinkenThese may include hindering Russia’s ability to convert rubles into Western currencies and kicking Russia out of Fast payment system, Restricting its sovereign debt purchases and encouraging Germany to stop buying Beixi 2 Oil pipelines that will transport natural gas directly from Russia to Europe.

But Russia has already been severely sanctioned. After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the United States implemented travel bans, asset freezes, financial and trade restrictions, and prohibited assistance to Russian oil and gas companies. Russian banks were blacklisted by the United States, and Visa and Mastercard also prevented some banks from using their payment systems. We don’t know what would happen without these sanctions, but they don’t seem to solve the Ukraine crisis, reduce Russia’s human rights violations, or prevent new cyber attacks.They have no doubt Dropped a few points Russia’s GDP has grown, but the economy is still Adapt.

According to the Treasury Department’s 2021 sanctions review, the use of sanctions in the United States has Increased by 933% From 2000 to 2021.During Barack Obama’s first term, the United States designated a 500 entities on average Under the leadership of Donald Trump, this number has almost doubled in the annual sanctions.Biden imposed new sanctions on Myanmar, Nicaragua and Russia. This week Put eight Chinese companies on the investment blacklist Because they participated in the suppression of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang.

You might hope that the surge in US sanctions means they are really effective. A generous study The report released in 2014 determined that they would lead to concessions about half the time. Since then, this percentage may have fallen. After the 9/11 attacks, the United States weaponized its financial system, making it more difficult for financial institutions to conduct dollar transactions with sanctioned governments, companies, or individuals. But the proliferation of digital currencies and alternative payment platforms has created new loopholes in economic sanctions, giving targets the opportunity to hold and transfer funds outside of the traditional dollar-based system.

Economic sanctions have also lost their effectiveness in a globalized world. China has become a “black knight” and has stepped in to provide trade diversion and other relief for sanctioned entities.Venezuela’s state-owned oil company was sanctioned by the United States to overthrow the government, but Sell ??oil to China Through Rosneft, the Russian state oil company. Iran is severely sanctioned, But China continues to buy oil.

The ratchet effect also reduces the effectiveness of US economic sanctions. For fear of appearing weak, it is much easier for leaders to impose sanctions than to lift them. Only Congress can permanently revoke sanctions authorized by law rather than executive orders, such as sanctions against Cuba and Russia. The ever-increasing political polarization makes this a very heavy task. If there is no reliable way to eliminate sanctions, the goal will not have much motivation for change or negotiation.

If economic sanctions are not a panacea, why does the United States continue to use them? Dan Drezner, Professor of International Politics, Tufts University Provide an explanationHe believes that they are not only a reflection of the decline of the United States (the opponent is less afraid of the United States, and the United States leaders have fewer tools), but also its catalyst. Sanctions angered enemies, angered allies, cost innocent people, and prompted targets to find alternatives to the U.S. financial system, weakening the hegemony of the U.S. dollar.

The Ukrainian issue is a thorny issue. Biden and Putin failed to resolve their differences in a two-hour phone call last week. It is not clear what incentives the United States and its allies can provide to make Putin back down. However, the threat of more sanctions may have little effect.They will impose costs, but, in other words Richard’s nephew, The former chief deputy coordinator of the State Council’s sanctions policy, “can’t blame [hammer] If it cannot perform the work of the screwdriver. “



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