February 09, 2018

Trump’s Use of Sanctions May Be Unsustainable

By Elizabeth Rosenberg and Peter Harrell

A year into his presidency, President Donald Trump has become an aggressive practitioner of economic sanctions. So far, the Treasury Department has added over 700 people, companies, and government agencies to sanctions lists. The administration has also increased other forms of economic pressure on North Korea and Venezuela. Its tactics are different too. Trump has threatened to rip up the Iran nuclear deal, thereby abandoning a multilateral approach to the application of financial sanctions on Iran.

Trump’s use of sanctions has notched some notable wins. Three rounds of North Korea sanctions adopted by the U.N. Security Council last year will, if fully enforced, cut off 90 percent of North Korea’s pre-sanctions export revenues. Sanctions on Venezuela target President Nicolas Maduro, who has presided over a humanitarian catastrophe that prompted over half a million Venezuelans flee in the last two years and caused hunger and child mortality rates to soar. U.S. sanctions have dramatically increased pressure on Caracas.

But there are worrying signs that Trump’s use of sanctions may not be sustainable. The administration needs a long-term strategy to shore up multilateral cooperation, prevent career staff burnout and departures, and get ahead of emerging trends that threaten to undercut U.S. sanctions dominance. Absent a holistic plan, America’s dealmaker-in-chief risks leaving his successors with a much weaker tool to deploy against future national security threats.

Read the full article in Foreign Policy. 

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