U.S. sanc­tions still fa­vored by Trump lose punch as pol­icy tool

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitic­s - BY DAN BOY­LAN

An­nounce­ments of U.S. sanc­tions — and calls from Capi­tol Hill for more — come with numb­ing reg­u­lar­ity, tar­get­ing Russian oli­garchs, Venezue­lan oil ex­ec­u­tives, Nicaraguan politi­cians, Chi­nese coal traders, Ira­nian bankers, Turk­ish Cab­i­net min­is­ters, North Korean ship­pers, hu­man rights vi­o­la­tors in Myan­mar and, just this month, any for­eigner who tries to “in­ter­fere in or un­der­mine pub­lic con­fi­dence in United States elec­tions,” among oth­ers, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Trea­sury.

Since the start of his term, Pres­i­dent Trump has ag­gres­sively em­ployed one of the most po­tent weapons of in­ter­na­tional state­craft to bol­ster his “Amer­ica first” for­eign pol­icy, but an­a­lysts worry that sanc­tions have been so overused by Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tions that their ef­fec­tive­ness is blunted.

The power of the sanc­tions is ob­vi­ous, ef­fec­tively shut­ting out the sanc­tioned from the world’s largest econ­omy and Amer­ica’s globe-span­ning fi­nan­cial sys­tem.

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials credit a U.S.-led cam­paign for in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions for help­ing bring North Korea to the bar­gain­ing ta­ble over its nu­clear weapons. They are or­ga­niz­ing a sim­i­lar ef­fort us­ing sanc­tions to pres­sure Iran.

But skep­tics say there is a sense of overkill and that Washington of­ten tar­gets for­eign fig­ures and or­ga­ni­za­tions that have min­i­mal or nonex­is­tent ties to the U.S. econ­omy. Law­mak­ers on Capi­tol Hill re­cently com­plained that the ex­ec­u­tive branch is fail­ing to en­force many of the sanc­tions on the books.

Gary Huf­bauer of the Peter­son In­sti­tute for In­ter­na­tional Eco­nom­ics has stud­ied the global use of sanc­tions since World War I. He has ex­plored more than 200 cases and has co-au­thored one of the lead­ing books on the sub­ject, “Eco­nomic Sanc­tions Re­con­sid­ered,” which was first pub­lished in 1985 and been up­dated mul­ti­ple times since.

“Sanc­tions are a part of diplo­macy that wax and wane, and we’re now in a heavy pe­riod of their use,” Mr. Huf­bauer said in an in­ter­view.

It’s not a new con­cern. Richard Haass, now pres­i­dent of the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions, wrote a study for the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion 20 years ago warn­ing against the overuse of uni­lat­eral U.S. sanc­tions to achieve for­eign pol­icy goals.

“All too of­ten sanc­tions turn out to be lit­tle more than ex­pres­sions of U.S. pref­er­ences that hurt Amer­i­can eco­nomic in­ter­ests with­out chang­ing the tar­get’s be­hav­ior for the bet­ter,” Mr. Haass wrote at the time. “As a rule, sanc­tions need to be less uni­lat­eral and more fo­cused on the prob­lem at hand.”

It’s not just Amer­ica’s ma­jor ad­ver­saries that have been tar­geted for sanc­tions.

Smaller coun­tries, in­di­vid­u­als and en­ti­ties with bull’s-eyes on their backs in­clude Colom­bian drug traf­fick­ers, Libyan oil smug­glers, Hezbol­lah ter­ror­ist fi­nanciers and Con­golese child sol­dier re­cruiters.

An anal­y­sis by the Washington-based law firm Gib­son, Dunn & Crutcher shows the in­creas­ing will­ing­ness of the U.S. gov­ern­ment to re­sort to the sanc­tion tool.

Dur­ing Mr. Trump’s first year in of­fice, nearly 1,000 peo­ple and en­ti­ties were added to the Spe­cially Des­ig­nated Na­tion­als and Blocked Per­sons fi­nan­cial black­list. That was roughly triple the num­ber Pres­i­dent Obama added dur­ing his first full year in of­fice.

The Obama and Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tions re­lied on “tar­geted sanc­tions” to pun­ish ter­ror­ists, smug­glers, hu­man rights vi­o­la­tors and for­eign pol­icy ri­vals, but the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has ex­panded the over­all black­list to an all-time high of roughly 6,500 names, ac­cord­ing to the Gib­son, Dunn num­bers.

Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven T. Mnuchin is also tak­ing a far more ac­tivist ap­proach to sanc­tions as a for­eign pol­icy tool.

“In prior ad­min­is­tra­tions, the Trea­sury sec­re­tary’s in­volve­ment in sanc­tions pol­icy was in­ter­mit­tent and rare, leav­ing the dayto-day work and an­nounce­ments of new sanc­tions” to the di­rec­tor of [the of­fice of for­eign as­sets con­trol], Gib­son, Dunn & Crutcher an­a­lysts wrote.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.