CNAS: Sanctions, the “coercive strength” of the US

Sanctions are an increasingly central instrument of foreign policy for governments around the world. In the United States, sanctions are now leveraged to an unprecedented degree to address a range of national security threats, including states like North Korea and Iran, terrorist groups, drug cartels, and corrupt business people.

To address these trends, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) has released a major new report, “Maintaining America’s Coercive Economic Strength: Five Trends to Watch in U.S. Sanctions,” by principal co-authors Peter Harrell and Elizabeth Rosenberg, and contributions from Howard Berman, Ambassador Paula Dobriansky, Sue Eckert, Kimberly Ann Elliot, David Goldwyn, Theodore Kassinger, George Lopez, Richard Nephew, Stephen Rademaker, Frederick Reynolds, Daleep Singh, Julianne Smith, Adam Szubin, Juan Zarate, and Rachel Ziemba.

Drawing upon insights from meetings of the CNAS Future of U.S. Sanctions Task Force and the authors’ collective experience helping to lead a broad array of federal agencies, academic institutions, and private sector firms, the report identifies five key trends in U.S. sanctions policy:

1. A shift away from multilateral sanctions strategy toward a more aggressive use of unilateral sanctions, including secondary sanctions.

2. Congress’s growing role in implementing and managing sanctions programs, and the possibility that greater congressional involvement will limit the flexibility and discretion the executive branch needs to make sanctions effective.

3. Growing complexity in U.S. sanctions policy, which has created unintended consequences in energy and commodities markets and substantially increased compliance costs for many companies.

4. Increasing efforts by foreign governments to circumvent American sanctions and develop alternative mechanisms to avoid the U.S. dollar and financial system.

5. The increasingly important role that technology plays, both in developing new analytic tools to improve sanctions implementation and enforcement, and in enabling new systems that facilitate sanctions evasion and may change the structure of the financial system over time.

The authors conclude that the trends identified in the report “should be viewed as lessons for decisionmakers and analysts, and weighed carefully to ensure that the United States preserves an effective tool for confronting some of the most profound threats challenging it and its allies today.” FOLLOW THE LINK TO READ THE CNAS REPORT