February 14, 2018

An Abundance of Sanctions Bills May Be Constraining Foreign Policy

Featuring Elizabeth Rosenberg

Source: CQ Roll Call

Journalist Rachel Oswald

Sanctions are a bit like antibiotics: best used sparingly to target a specific adversary. But lawmakers are increasingly looking to sanctions — one of the few pieces of major legislation that draws broad bipartisan support — as a foreign policy cure-all, a tactic that may ultimately render a critical piece of U.S. economic leverage ineffective.

Lawmakers aren’t the only ones boosting sanctions, with the trend extending down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. When George W. Bush left office, the list of government-imposed sanctions against people, businesses and countries had grown by over 2,250 to 4,600, according to data compiled by Enigma Technologies. In his eight years, President Barack Obama saw the number grow by more than 1,000 and President Donald Trump — in just his first year — has already added about 500 to the list.

Even as the numbers keep growing, the Treasury Department staff dedicated to maintaining and updating this blacklist, as well as coordinating sanctions policy with other U.S. agencies and foreign governments, hasn’t kept pace — a risky situation for the U.S. and its allies, considering the stakes. Sanctions that are rushed through Congress without proper legal grounding could be overturned in U.S. courts. And those that are so tightly imposed by Congress on the executive branch run the risk of stripping U.S. foreign policy of the nuance, nimbleness, and flexibility it needs to be successful.

Read the full article here.


  • Elizabeth Rosenberg

    Former Senior Fellow and Director, Energy, Economics and Security Program

    Elizabeth Rosenberg is a former Senior Fellow and Director of the Energy, Economics, and Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. In this capacity, she publ...