International Sanctions

December 9, 2022 • Volume 32, Issue 42
Do they work?
By Zarrín Caldwell


In recent decades, large Western economies increasingly have used sanctions — such as the thousands imposed on Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February — to avoid military action when diplomacy does not deter behavior the international community considers unacceptable. Proponents say sanctions, which include withdrawing trade, financial or diplomatic relations, are a vital foreign policy tool. Opponents, including some in the Global South, say sanctions do not always achieve their objectives, rarely result in regime change and can adversely affect vulnerable citizens. To avoid society-wide suffering due to leaders' transgressions, Western countries increasingly use so-called smart sanctions, which have targeted and reined in some rogue actors. Experts disagree on whether the United States, which imposes more sanctions than any other country, is helping establish a rules-based order or is eroding its global leadership due to what even some European allies consider its trigger-happy approach. In any case, proliferating sanctions are creating ripple effects on global trade and financial systems that experts say should be taken far more seriously.

Photo of confiscated yacht owned by Russian tycoon,in Vladivostok, on March 31, 2022. (AFP/Getty Images/Pavel Korolyov)
This 465-foot yacht owned by a Russian tycoon was seized as part of sanctions targeting Russia and its oligarchs after Russia invaded Ukraine. International sanctions are on the rise, but many critics say they can do more harm than good. (AFP/Getty Images/Pavel Korolyov)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
World Trade
Dec. 09, 2022  International Sanctions
Apr. 2010  Evaluating Microfinance
Sep. 2009  Future of Globalization
Jul. 2009  Fixing Capitalism
May 18, 2007  Fair Trade Labeling
Sep. 28, 2001  Globalization Backlash
Jun. 09, 2000  World Trade
Jan. 29, 1999  International Monetary Fund
May 29, 1987  Third World Debt
Jun. 22, 1984  Bretton Woods Forty Years Later
Jan. 21, 1983  World Debt Crisis
Apr. 18, 1975  World Financing Under Stress
Sep. 08, 1971  World Money Crisis
Jul. 30, 1969  International Development Financing
Mar. 11, 1964  World Trade Parleys
May 23, 1962  Farm Products in World Trade
Apr. 27, 1945  Bretton Woods Agreements
Oct. 05, 1932  World Trade, Tariffs, and War Debts
Alliances and Security Agreements
Bilateral and Regional Trade
Cold War
Economic Crises
Export Sanctions and Restrictions
General Defense and National Security
General Employment and Labor
General International Relations
Global Issues
International Energy Trade and Cooperation
Internet and Social Media
Oil and Natural Gas
Party Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency
Protest Movements
Regional Political Affairs: Africa
Regional Political Affairs: East Asia and the Pacific
Regional Political Affairs: Europe
Regional Political Affairs: Russia and the Former Soviet Union
War and Conflict