Preserving the Power of U.S. Economic Sanctions in a Multipolar World

Preserving the Power of U.S. Economic Sanctions in a Multipolar World
President Donald Trump signs a memorandum on the Iran nuclear deal from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Washington, May 8, 2018 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Economic sanctions are not a panacea for national security and other foreign policy challenges, though American policymakers often treat them as such. Just in the past year, the Trump administration has imposed new sanctions against Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela, many of them building on sanctions previously imposed by the Obama administration. The overall results are mixed, although in some of these cases, sanctions have contributed to changes in foreign behavior that the United States finds discomfiting or dangerous.

Tough United Nations sanctions against Iran, under President Barack Obama, and North Korea, under President Donald Trump, forced both Tehran and Pyongyang to the bargaining table. In the Iranian case, those negotiations produced the multilateral agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability in exchange for lifting international sanctions. But Trump railed against the deal while running for president, and once in office, he withdrew from it—over the strong objections of American allies in Europe who had helped negotiate the agreement—and imposed new sanctions. Getting Kim Jong Un to the table has not yet produced an agreement to constrain the nuclear threat from North Korea, though the regime in Pyongyang has refrained from testing nuclear devices or missiles for over a year.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and European Union sanctions against Russia may have prevented a further push by Moscow-backed separatists into Ukraine, but a low-level conflict continues in the eastern part of the country. U.S. intelligence agencies and the Justice Department have also concluded that Russia continues to interfere in American elections. In Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro stubbornly clings to power despite an intense U.S.-led pressure campaign.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.