October 19, 2017
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In Aligning Economic Sanctions, author John Forrer, associate research professor of strategic management and public policy at the School of Business at George Washington University, explains why developing better aligned economic sanctions is critical for this vital foreign policy tool to achieve its desired outcomes.

 

As part of the Atlantic Council’s “Economic Sanctions Initiative,” the issue brief examines the challenges to aligning economic sanctions, with a focus on the economic sanctions on Russia in response to the annexation of Crimea. The author also explains why achieving well-aligned economic sanctions should be an important foreign policy objective:
    1. Well-aligned sanctions are more likely to accomplish the desired foreign policy goal(s) they are meant to achieve.
    2. They can be used as a credible tool of deterrence when threatened in advance of adoption, potentially gaining the benefits of economic sanctions without actually invoking them.
    3. They strengthen multilateral cooperation, further increasing prospects for attaining the sought-after foreign policy goal(s).
    4. They limit suffering of innocents living within the sanctioned country.
    5. They minimize losses to businesses and consumers in the sanctioning country and those of its allies.

Furthermore, the author suggests efforts to better align economic sanctions going forward, including the following:
  • Developing analytic techniques that estimate the level of economic costs needed to change the policies of other governments, the portion of those economic costs achievable through economic sanctions, and the cost of economic sanctions on others in the sanctioned and sanctioning countries.
  • Establishing robust and continually updated databases and analytics for risk and scenario analyses to inform the design of economic sanctions that have high probabilities of achieving specified economic impacts.
  • Anticipating that economic sanctions will need to be flexible and adjusted on a regular basis to stay aligned in response to changing global market conditions and evasive actions by the sanctioned country.
  • Avoiding using economic sanctions as symbolic foreign policy gestures.
  • Encouraging greater reliance on multilateral economic sanctions by creating a forum where countries can share data and other information about the potential and actual impact of alternative economic sanctions regimes.

This issue brief is part of the Atlantic Council’s Economic Sanctions Initiative and is made possible by generous support through Hogan Lovells US LLP, PricewaterhouseCoopers US LLP, and the Hon. David D. Aufhauser.

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