Can America Escape Its Addiction to Sanctioning?


Can America Escape Its Addiction to Sanctioning?

July 11, 2023

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This piece was originally published in the National Interest.

According to the Financial Times, back in October 2022, 70 percent of Europe’s fertilizer and 50 percent of aluminum production capacity was offline due to energy shortages. The EU’s energy sanctions on Russia, imposed in response to the latter’s invasion of Ukraine, had the consequence of crippling the continent’s industrial capacity at the time. Firms ranging from BASF to ArcelorMittal made plans to relocate to China or the United States to escape high energy costs. While European countries were able to wean off Russian gas, the replacement of this with other sources led to developing countries, like Pakistan, to suffer from power outages.

While Europe resolved its energy crisis for now, the gas sanctions on Russia had unintentional consequences not only for European countries but also for countries not directly involved in the Russian-Ukrainian war. But why are sanctions so prone to producing unintended consequences? Agathe Demarais’ Backfire: How Sanctions Reshape the World Against U.S. Interests, which came out in the middle of 2022, answers this question. She delves specifically into the rich post-World War Two history of the United States sanctioning other countries.

It has been a common critique of sanctions that they do not work, and Demarais does an excellent job of proving this to be true. From unintended humanitarian consequences to sanctions derailing global commodities markets, Demarais provides detailed sanctions of well-intended policies having unintended consequences.

Continue reading in the National Interest.

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