How to deal with U.S. sanctions?

The current administration of the United States pursues the (not unprecedented) policy of ignoring substituting or bypassing global and international norms to a new level.  Recent examples include international trade treaties, the withdrawal from the Kyoto process, the pull-out from the 5 plus 1 Iran agreement, and the ongoing side-effects of these withdrawals.

It matters little whether current foreign policy is a continuation of traditional attitudes of exceptionalism, or if it is designed to win favour with certain domestic U.S. constituencies.

One of the more interesting issues is the phenomenon of secondary sanctions. This means that the U.S. administration does not only decide about which sanctions against who it wants to implement, but also tries to oblige companies from other countries to follow these ‘directions‘. If transnational companies do not accept this, they are threatened by sanctions themselves and may not be able to continue with commercial activities in the U.S., or with American partners.

While the global liberal order established after 1945 may be eroding, certain national regulations  are being preserved, or even strengthened, especially in the U.S.,  China  and to some extent, Russia.

This week’s questions are: a) is this acceptable? And b) what strategies and measures can be conceived to cope with this?


Klaus Segbers


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  1. Alexei Voskressenski 1 year ago

    Sanctions are not acceptable, sanctions are generally reflecting a wrong direction in international politics. However, we must understand that for years the analysts and radical politicians in many countries including some in Europe, and also Russia were insisting that the US hegemony is malign, that it disappears, that the American leadership fades away, that the US is a week country, that Americans have nothing to trade in, that Americans are not producing anything, the US dollar is a fake world currency imposed on others for American economic benefits and that multilateral agreements are an American invention to impose American economic supremacy on other countries. At the same time, both America and Europe imposed sanctions on others never considering that sanctions can be imposed on them. In a polycentric world, these cries and following policy of a deconstructive nature and double standards resulted in tectonic shifts in America and the appearance of D.Trump with his one-dimension cynical "America first!" policy. So, now we all should rebalance the polycentrism with the benign place for the USA in the international system, reconstruct 'constructive relationships' with the USA as one of the most important international political and economic actors and explain for Mr.Trump that sanctions will not bring benefits to anybody including America itself.

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  2. Justas Paleckis 1 year ago

    It is almost two years that the European Union faces a menacing situation for the first time in its 61st year of existence: world’s three most powerful military countries-rivals are clearly willing to weaken or even ruin the EU. D. Trump after moving from business to politics proved that he is a person of one’s word. Many experienced politicians have defined his pre-election promises as highly irresponsible because they can cause chaos in the world. Now these promises are consistently implemented. The president of the United States does not hide his sympathy for some dictators. His sanctions policy is also dictatorial: to punish all countries, even the closest allies, who do not abide by the sanctions unilaterally imposed by the United States. Brussels should have to talk, negotiate with Washington, but should not obey the dictate. On the other hand, the countries and leaders which seem authoritarian are also growing in the European Union. Let's see what kind of surprises we will get from the new Italian government.

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  3. Tobias Lechner 1 year ago

    The nasty secondary sanctions ask, of course, for an honest response. Juncker's "Blocking Statute" is a first necessary step. Despite the many unbelievable events in the U.S., an evaluation of the Transatlantic partnership should not refer to better times in the past, but to alternatives. The emerging authoritarian alliance makes Europe crystal clear that friends are friends even when they behave like enemies. The highest priority for the EU, despite Brexit and Trump, should be to preserve the Transatlantic friendship. Whereas some scholars argue that Trump (and real autocrats around the world) only understands signs of strength, and that Macron's and Merkel's pleasing attitudes in the White House only encouraged Trump, I argue that the EU should still use carrots for friends (e.g., decreasing tariffs not increasing them), and keep the sticks for others.

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  4. Friederike Kies 1 year ago

    Recent examples as the U.S. administration´s withdrawal from the Kyoto process, the pull-outs from the 5 plus 1 Iran agreement, other international trade treaties and following side effects, are worrisome trends for international politics. With American tariffs and sanctions the U.S. administration is risking a trade war with Europe and other countries. Ultimately the U.S. is isolating itself from former allies and the world. One is left to wonder whether the global liberal order established after 1945 is slowly eroding. Europe seems to realize this change, as Tusk recently said, when looking at U.S. administration´s decisions one “could even think: with friends like that who needs enemies.” Furthermore, he states the “EU should be grateful...We realise that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm.” The EU should set an example by not entering a trade war with the U.S., but focus on establishing relations with new allies.

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  5. Stephanie von Kanel 1 year ago

    While many states exercise their power capabilities for specific objectives, none operate from a position of such absolute-power as the United States. Underlying the unparalleled power of the US in sanctioning states is the ideology of American exceptionalism; which contends the US differs qualitatively from other states. This ideological-standpoint positions the US as the global arbiter of morality in political decision making and this is problematic. While the US is no exemplar of moral virtue (neither are other states), it is a nation of extreme economic strength and military capacity. Herein comes the explanation for why US-led sanctions are so powerful and often uncompromising. Such power has superseded political exceptionalism for exemptionalism, whereby the US state curtails international concerns for domestic agendas.Yet perhaps a turning point on US authority over sanctions will develop as a result of their retraction from the Iran Nuclear deal. If the other signatory states are able to sustain and perhaps strengthen the deal without US commitment, this could alter the image of American absolutism in regards to sanctions. Though this would not diminish US power entirely, it would be a strong message on the potentiality of change. What is evident, however, is that significant shifts in global power systems require commitment and time.

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  6. Mina Sumaadii 1 year ago

    This is not an acceptable strategy, because it leaves too much room for abuse and damage in the long-run. Basically, what we are looking at is while the U.S. enforces sanctions unilaterally, it wants to maximize their effectiveness to the level of multilateral sanctions. The problem is the lack of international support of those sanctions from the start.
    In the short term, Europeans should push-back and block these secondary sanctions under the condition of compliance only if their origins are multilateral. Collectively the EU should hold no illusions about the U.S. as a partner with the current administration’s ‘America First’ and move on. The long-term strategy I can think of is to try to strengthen and support multilateral institutions, such as the WTO in case of sanctions and trade disputes.

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  1. Mohammad Mahdi 1 year ago

    I do not have much to say! Everything is explicit and clear. I believe in this century US is playing with cards of military and sanctions and EU is a loser as Russia and China are looking for a deal. EU is in an extreme need to be both careful in diplomacy and offensive in economy. Developing countries specially those in MENA are willing to EU rather than US. EU should crowl out of its shell and play a significant role near and far! Now or never!

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  2. Elham Abedini 1 year ago

    I can not say sanction is a absolute bad tool because sometimes it can be used as a defensive tool to deter the threat. but unfortunately the powers can misuse. ‌I beleive that Trump is the symbol of greedy and egocentric person. The recent events demonstrates that Trump is not commited to any international contract. whenever he reaches one of his desired, he asked more. the more he reaches, the more he wanted! I think the best tactic to deal with US sanctions is to take countermeasure.The united world can be more powerful than the alone and isolated U.S . U.S is not any more a kind grandpa for Europe who fund and support them. now U.S intend to impose tarrifs against EU, Canada and China. Also it impose sanction against Iran, China (ZTE) and Russia. even when it sees EU, the old ally does not support these santions, it doed not care. I beleive that EU should decide about its future and the world order. If now it does nt confront US, it will never happen. it is an opportunity for them to do sth.

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  3. Behzad Abdollahpour 1 year ago

    It is not an acceptable strategy. US withdrawal from many bilateral and multilateral agreements should convince EU that US cannot be a reliable ally. Thus EU should contemplate finding another ally. Gone are the days of post-cold war periods in which US reigned over the world. The emergence of new powers such as China accelerate the momentum of having multipolar world rather than unipolar one. In order to deal with US secondary sanctions some put that EU can pursue Blocking Regulation, but I believe that as long as EU depends on US financial system, it cannot resists against harsh punishments. China, as the rising power in the economic sphere can be a reliable ally for EU. Participating in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is considered as a new global strategy, allows EU to have access to the global markets, thereby resisting against US economic sanctions. Considering the fact that the US dollar is a global dominant currency and confines the financial transactions, EU and China can expand China International payment System (CIPS) to guarantee the safety of their financial transactions. Global economic system should promote connectivity and global prosperity rather than be a tool in the hands of politicians to isolate a nation state. I can say that US unilateral measures would isolate it in international communities. If it wants to be isolated, so let it be.

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  4. Armin Mihandar 1 year ago

    I believe that the United States is trying to play the Godfather role in the world; especially when it comes to the Middle East, everything should be under its control. The Joint comprehensive plan of action was a result of more than ten years diplomatic negotiations and debates. But all of a sudden, the new US president shows up and says that this is "the worst deal ever." And when the most fundamental pillar of this consensus is lost, the other parties would now bare twice as much pressure. Now this is not only the case; the US will try to jeopardize the deal by bringing down the whole parties. So if these parties are acting again the US wish, they will be also published and they will be also suffering negative consequences. But why should the destination and the freedom of the whole world be crushed by a big figure as Trump? Who could actually stop them? In my opinion, the world's greatest enemy is US government's greed. I believe that the world's major powers must be united and topple the grotesque hegemony of the United States. We have clearly seen that the US government doesn't even recognize and respect its allies, let alone its rivals and enemies. So it seems fair if the European Union is considering tariffs on American products. I believe in the short run, the United States will grow up economically and politically; but on the other hand, in the long run, the future presidents and ministers will regret the choices that has been made.

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  5. Mohsen Amiri 1 year ago

    Mohsen Amiri:
    When it comes to asking about its acceptability, we are implicitly asking about the worldview of the audience and its origin. In my opinion, as a (potential) political scientist, its not sufficient just to answer with "yes" or "no".
    Regardless of the intellectual and political stream the audience themselves follow, we must find out which intellectual stream answers "yes" and whose is "no".
    It's crystal clear that the followers of globalization and regionalism firmly insist on "no" because they find all their achievements at the risk of their big brother.
    And, "yes" is the answer of isolationists and the followers of close, totalitarian discourses that are not concordant with the international open trade regime.
    However, the most important and tempting question to think of, is the second one. Frankly speaking, I suppose that the west must revitalize itself.
    Vexillary, muscel , or the West's big brother(from a political-historucal viewpoint) is increasingly engaged with the history of its international relations and its former decisions- which affects the future, and most importantly, seemingly unending crisis of the domestic identity and racial arguments as a former kind young revolutional super power now it is shown opposite of those attitude.
    We must face the reality: the America where Trump is introducing to the world is no longer able to represent the role of big brother to the world. Preference of the most American streams for America's future is something similar to the Australia or Japan.
    Regarding the first question, is it acceptable? If not, what action should be taken?
    If the liberal West prefers the big brother to be outside of "home" (beacuse maybe other brothers start fight with each other as they did several times) at the other side of the Atlantic ocean, and is trying to reproduce it, it would better gradually find another America, and leave the big brother with its internal challenges alone. Overseas limited options exist for the West. However, due to the geopolitical logic that the West has traditionally chosen, it can be expected that Canada can be the young vexillary of the west world provided that step-by-step macro-plans in terms of great political and social investments are made. Young population, rich resources and non-threatening political structure to liberal democracy, and its non-bloody history (in contast to Germany, England and America) makes Canada a potential power balancer. The great number of investment and forthcoming energy companies can provide a special soft power for Canada and revitalize the golden ages of the West.
    In summary, America is never going to be that young America agian in terms of liberal democracy and this is an unacceptable but is reality. However, there is no other way for the West to get out of the challenge but to break forward. Since the West will not be permanently(or temporarily) relieved from its complexities implied by its identity, the West will follow the former, well-functioned formula, and this time, the young and respectful Canada is the best option.

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  6. CHEN Lihao 12 months ago

    Looking back to the history of the American foreign policy, sanction is not a new thing. As a matter of fact, the American foreign policy makers are usually not only in favor of, but also quite familiar with using sanction as a diplomatic tool. From my own perspective, sanctions are not acceptable out of both liberal and pragmatism concerns. First of all, sanction is definitely  a move of unilateralism which violates the principles of the liberal order. Secondly, most cases suggest that sanction just don't work. For example, if the authority is cruel enough, sanction will only bring catastrophe to its people and will have no chance to achieve the very purpose of the reason why to launch it. As for measures and strategies that could be conceived to cope with sanction, I believe that strengthening the global connection of trade and commerce might be a potential choice. Since in the globalization era, sanction would undoubtedly end with a zero-sum situation. The more globalized the world is, the less chance America could benefits from launching sanction.

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  7. Abduallah Noorie Sager 11 months ago

    The US Republican Party's policy based on war and the use of military force to intimidate and subjugate adversaries. However, President Trump followed a new policy representing by the imposition of severe economic sanctions on countries oppose the US. This is what happened to North Korea, Trump imposes unprecedented economic sanctions led to the end of the waiver of the Korean nuclear arsenal, Trump is returning the repeats with Iran by cutting off dollar supplies for Iran's economy, which leads to a decline in exports and imports to Iran.
    But many questions raised about the usefulness of these policies because of its affect peoples more than governments, that's what happening now to Iran people. As a result of the above, that policy of imposing economic sanctions on countries that refuse to comply on the US decisions is very ominous and indicative and its an expression of the failure of US policy to contain and manage crises around the world.

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  8. Rakan Nawaf Alshoubaki 11 months ago

    The United States is a country with global political and economic power and dominance, and therefore it can control many of the political systems with which it shares common interests.
    There is no doubt that the United States can impose economic sanctions on any state through the Security Council, and through the political and economic impact of the United States can force many political and economic influencers to interact with these sanctions and support their application by politicizing the economic trend and putting pressure on companies and states politically.
    But sometimes US sanctions are unfair to the owners of companies and interests that the United States wants to carry out with them sanctions, which would harm the interests of owners of companies who have nothing to do with any conflict.
    The harsh US sanctions against Iran were not only applied to the Iranian government, but European companies were prevented from dealing with Iran in any way.
    Therefore, we can deal with US sanctions in various ways, including continuing negotiations with the US side to find solutions that eliminate these sanctions, and search for contacts not under US hegemony to deal with them to get rid of American economic control.
    Finally, Sometimes these sanctions are important if they are to deter a threat in the world, but as we know, US sanctions are a weapon used by the United States to achieve their interests in the first place, regardless of the stated reasons on the grounds that they are concerned with global interests.

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