• The Financial Implications of Deploying Sanctions in Hong Kong

    Hong Kong has been gripped by a brave protest movement sparked by Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s proposed Extradition Bill, which, though suspended, has yet to be withdrawn. Though protestors have moderate and measured requests, they have been met with the flagrantly irresponsible use of riot control devices such as tear gas in the Kwai Fong metro station. Police have turned a virtual blind eye to attacks on the press and protestors alike in Yuen Long. The protestors’ persistence has called into question whether Beijing might employ force to end the protests, envisioning another Tiananmen Square crackdown, and how Washington should potentially respond.

    Read More
  • To Deal with Bad Ideas, Develop Better Solutions

    The Russo-German Nord Stream gas pipeline projects—Nord Stream I, completed in 2011, and Nord Stream II scheduled to be completed around the end of 2019—are bad projects because they increase European dependence on Russian gas in general, and especially because they give the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin the option of delivering gas to Germany while bypassing other European countries. Putin’s Russia has a track record of using gas exports as political pressure, for example, against Ukraine in the years leading up to Putin’s attack on that country in 2014 and has threatened to do the same to Central European countries, including those in the European Union. Given this, and their long experience on the receiving end of Kremlin ambitions, the Ukrainians, Poles, and Baltic countries are


    Read More
  • New Russia Sanctions: Justified, But Feeble and Awkward

    Late on August 2, under pressure from the US Congress and nearly seven months later than the law allows, the Trump Administration imposed additional sanctions on Russia for its attempted assassination-by-nerve-gas of a former Russian intelligence officer on British soil in March 2018.

    The US State Department announced the sanctions, accompanied by an executive order to give the Department of the Treasury authority to implement two of the three sanctions and action by the Department of Commerce to implement the third.

    Read More
  • Lift Sanctions on Russia? Really?

    During his congressional testimony on July 24, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller confirmed the troubling extent of Russia’s campaign to interfere with the 2016 US Presidential election. And he memorably noted that Russia’s malign efforts to interfere in US elections were continuing “as we sit here.”

    Given that, it seems an odd time for anybody to argue that “there is no reason to sanction Russia anymore.” But such were the words of Kenneth Rapoza, writing in Forbes on July 29. So, let’s recall why the United States, Europe, Japan, Australia, Canada, and other countries imposed sanctions on Russia and why maintaining, and possibly intensifying, those sanctions remains important. 

    Read More
  • Trump's Iran Moment

    Surprising new signs are emerging that President Trump’s controversial “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran could set the table for new negotiations toward a better agreement.  
    To get there, however, President Trump will have to navigate the greatest perils in US-Iranian relations in recent memory, something he has done so far with a military restraint that has confounded his critics and gained him praise for “prudence” even from Iran’s foreign minister. 

    Read More
  • Trump Sanctions Iran’s Supreme Leader

    US President Donald J. Trump on June 24 signed an executive order that he said would place “hard-hitting” sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader.

    “The Supreme Leader of Iran is one who ultimately is responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime. He’s respected within his country.  His office oversees the regime’s most brutal instruments, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Trump said before signing the order in the White House. “These measures represent a strong and proportionate response to Iran’s increasingly provocative actions,” he added.

    The executive order allows US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to impose sanctions on officials appointed by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and those who provide material support to his office. “These sanctions will deny Iran’s leadership access to financial resources,


    Read More
  • Coherent US Strategy Seen Key to Effective Sanctions

    As Washington looks to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, support for Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and interference in the 2016 US elections, economic sanctions can be a useful tool, but they must fit into a coherent US strategy in order to be effective, Atlantic Council experts told US lawmakers on May 15.

    “Sanctions can be a useful, precise, and effective tool of US foreign policy, so long as they are treated as a tool to implement a clear policy and a thought-out strategy,” David Mortlock, a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center explained.

    Read More
  • Policing Terror Finance in an Era of Great Competition

    The United States' sanctions strategy is increasingly burdened by the involvement of systemically important financial institutions and sovereign investors in global financial statecraft. In the post-9/11 world, Washington’s strategy was highly effective in pursuing non-state actors like al-Qaeda or ISIS, as well as small, rogue nations like Iran. Yet in addressing larger sovereigns like the Kremlin, US strategy has struggled to maintain the same effectiveness given the cross-border financial connections linking these entities to Western markets. As an era of great power competition among Washington, Moscow, and Beijing sets in, these foes will crowd out smaller, non-state actors, thus demanding an adequate response from the Treasury.

    Read More
  • Fried Testifies Before House Foreign Affairs on Countering a Resurgent Russia

    Statement by Ambassador Daniel Fried (retired)
    Distinguished Fellow, the Atlantic Council
    Hearing on “Countering a Resurgent Russia” 
    House Committee on Foreign Affairs
    May 1, 2019

    Read More
  • Spotlight: Next Steps with Venezuela

    Despite increased, coordinated international pressure on Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, he continues to cling to power. Maduro’s staying power has outlasted the Trump administration’s optimistic timeline, but, in this case, the stated goal of regime change is one worthy of perseverance. The need for a timely solution is exacerbated by the extreme humanitarian crisis – created by years of Maduro regime mismanagement – that has already prompted 3.7 million Venezuelans to flee. In order to achieve its policy objective, the Trump administration’s strategy should be broadened beyond


    Read More