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Do Sanctions Work?

Unread postPosted: 23 November 2021, 19:52
by pozzie
One of the 'harshest' measures a government can take short of invasion, and now one of the most popular, is to impose sanctions on a government or key members and supporters of a regime. From complete embargoes like Cubans have lived with for decades to visa bans and frozen assets of heads of state, do you think sanctions actually make a difference?

Re: Do Sanctions Work?

Unread postPosted: 23 November 2021, 21:27
by PopTart
I think it depends on the sanction.

Take Putin for example, multitudes of sanctions have been levelled against his country and individuals in Russia, but largely those sanctions have proven ineffective, since the Russian economy is largely decoupled from the global one. The only areas where sanctions would ve effective, would be embargoing Gas or financial services, such as visa etc. Ofcourse, those kinds of sanctions are as likely to harm the issuing nations as much as Russia and Putins cronies.

Infact, id go so far as to say that sanctions that target specific individuals are an empty gesture, to give the appearance of doing something while in actual fact, not doing much at all.

China's sanctions of Australian coal have had quite a negative impact on Australian finances, but at the cost of the steel and energy industries in China, to the extent that China has been struggling to satisfy it's need for coal.

Elsewhere, sanctions can do a great deal to influence foreign policies and domestic affairs.

Re: Do Sanctions Work?

Unread postPosted: 24 November 2021, 13:47
by Brenden
The sanctions on Cuba for instance have just been extremely hurtful to the people of Cuba, and never led to an overthrow of the Castro regime.

As PopTart brought up, the sanctions on Russia and Russia's oligarchs essentially only strengthened their resolve to fight a new cold war against the United States and the West — funding bottom-up efforts to destabilise countries politically and economically, escalation of cyber warfare, and undermining global diplomacy — and didn't even achieve anything with regard to Crimea and Ukrainian sovereignty.

Similarly, tariff wars typically only hurt consumers and smaller businesses which can't bear the increased costs and market pricing, and often just lead to a permanent shift in purchasing away from the country with tariffs, which is like shooting one's own economy in the foot (or maybe even the head).

I don't actually think I've ever heard of sanctions toppling a regime, come to think of it.

Re: Do Sanctions Work?

Unread postPosted: 24 November 2021, 19:31
by pozzie
Brenden wrote:I don't actually think I've ever heard of sanctions toppling a regime, come to think of it.

Agreed on what's been said - I kind of scratch my head at this point when "new sanctions announced for ..." Belarus has been in the news.

Clearly two other examples of how effective sanction regimes are: DPRK and Iran. Oh yeah, the governments are changing at a glacial pace and average people, like Cubans, are suffering from things like shortages of medicines, food, and fuel. Venezuela falls into this group as well.

The one case people claim where sanctions worked that I can think of is South Africa though I'm less convinced. It may have contributed but there were other factors at play like the demise of the Soviet Union/end of the Cold War and weariness of the terror/freedom campaign (depends on one's POV as usual).

Has anyone heard of better alternatives?

Like so many things, I'm of two minds on this. I'm not big on treating states that actively persecute LGBT+ people or deny rights to women, indigenous, or minority groups as "normal". Maybe "Least Favored Nation" status to put them at the back of the line for trade? Isn't the idea of sanctions really, on some level, virtue/value signaling? But I do feel that there's probably too much meddling going on in the affairs of other states. The devil is in striking a balance.

For example, I personally don't shun most MAGA types on principle unless they are just endlessly harping about their ideology thus leading to boredom more than anything. However I might choose to associate with them less than someone I have more in common with.

I've given up trying to change others. Why do so many think we can change other countries?

Re: Do Sanctions Work?

Unread postPosted: 24 November 2021, 20:07
by PopTart
I feel that, sanctions are a legitimate means for any government (sort of, more on that in a second) to use, in it's grab bag of tools and means by which, to get your way, with your contemporaries.

It is one of many tools. Its's effectiveness and thus, it's value for achieving a specific goal, depends on each countries unique circumstances and the sought after goal.

Germany, for example, would be highly susceptible to trade sanctions from Russia, if the sanctions were for gas. Germany needs Russian gas. Without it, people are going to freeze in winter. Russia would never levy those sanctions on gas, against Germany, because Russia wants/needs the Euros that Germany pays, for that gas. Should there come a time, that Russia wanted something from Germany, that was more valuable to Russia, than Euros, global support or silence for some piece of Russian foreign policy, Russia could and I suspect would, be willing to embargo gas exports to Germany or, if Germany did something that Russia really didn't want to see, like say, support and advocate for Ukraine joining NATO, you can bet gas sanctions would be on the table and they would be effective. Germany is that dependant on Russian gas...

So there, we have a clear circumstance, in which, sanctions, could be effective.

The nations for whom, sanctions could be regarded as an effective tool in the foreign policy playback, is not universal ofcourse.

Sure, sanctions from the US, that prevent imports of raw materials or manufactured goods from being imported to the US, from a nation whose primary export market, is the US, is going to be more effective at influencing the policies of that second country. That's obvious. It's why we tend to find that sanctions aren't really needed in those instances, everyone involved knows what will happen and issues don't escalate to that point. Usually.

Alot of countries however, aren't dependant on single markets for their goods, be it imports of exports. And so, we tend to find, that sanctions are most effective in aggregate.

We also tend to find, that sanctions are only really a tool in the arsenal of wealthy, or developed economies. They are most effective against less developed economies (Iran, Cuba, Venezuela) or more globalised economies (everyone short of China, Russia, Iran and a handful of less consequential States around the globe) who are susceptible to concerted, multinational sanctions. Or monoeconomies that rely predominantly on trade in one specific good (usually a raw material or manufactured good that is imported or exported)

Iran hasn't changed it's attitudes on the international stage, but sanctions have most definately stifled it's ability to access certain resources and specialists, that hamper it's ability to advance its disruptive goals. (Depending on one's point of view, maybe you feel that aggression towards Israel is justified.)

Cuba and Venezuela are special circumstances and I'm not going into those as they represent conversational flashpoints, regarding communism and who and what exactly is responsible for their economic shortcomings.

I think alot of people mistakenly believe that sanctions are used for moral purposes and while governments might be swift to seize upon this idea, to further legitimise their actions, the truth is they are a means of projecting influence on the international stage and are just another form of diplomacy. Not quite on par with negotiation, not quite as extreme as outright direct interference, but certainly a form of coercion. I'd hesitate to say their use is belligerent, but it's far from friendly either.

The not so surprising issue we now face is the one that comes with waning economic superiority of the west and west decohesion in general, paired with growing economic success in the East and greater unity and collaboration amongst typically anti-western powers abroad, who now more than ever, find themselves able to shrug off sanctions, while also finding themselves in a position to effectively use this tool of foreign policy for their own advantage.

I don't really buy into the argument that using them, or not, is amoral or in some manner objectionable on principle. The question is, is it effective, what is signalled when they are used, what advantage or disadvantage is really gained when they are employed and should they be used so freely, given that they can indeed, be counter productive.

Re: Do Sanctions Work?

Unread postPosted: 24 November 2021, 20:23
by PopTart
As to alternatives to sanctions, I'm not really sure.

The concept behind sanctions, is that you have a government or regime, that has already demonstrated a lack of engagement or desire to implement change, that they most likely don't agree with.

There aren't really a multitude of means by which, one nation, can exert influence over the decision making process of another that has already made it clear, they have their own ideas about things.

You've got regular diplomatic channels and methods, that can be incredibly complicated, involving a great deal of talking, bargaining, give and take, all of that. But when that breaks down and there is no real space for bargaining to take place, your fast running out of options.

Short of direct intervention, once talk has been exhausted, you really don't have many options.

Perhaps someone else can think of something but I suspect we see sanctions used so frequently, precisely because international diplomats and major governments have all asked themselves this same question and the best they could come up with was... sanctions.

All the alternatives are worse.

Re: Do Sanctions Work?

Unread postPosted: 25 November 2021, 22:02
by Brenden
pozzie wrote:The one case people claim where sanctions worked that I can think of is South Africa though I'm less convinced. It may have contributed but there were other factors at play like the demise of the Soviet Union/end of the Cold War and weariness of the terror/freedom campaign (depends on one's POV as usual).

The anti-apartheid movement was much more grassroots, with huge swaths of consumers boycotting the country and many shareholders pushing for divestment.

pozzie wrote:Has anyone heard of better alternatives?

IDK, but Ukraine should have never had to give its share of the USSR nuclear arsenal to Russia. Just sayin'.

Re: Do Sanctions Work?

Unread postPosted: 27 November 2021, 07:34
by poolerboy0077
Sanctions work to allow regimes like Maduro’s, and Chavez’s before him, to use as a pretext as to why their country is horribly impoverished by blaming the US entirely and side-stepping any role they’ve played.

Re: Do Sanctions Work?

Unread postPosted: 27 November 2021, 08:59
by PopTart
I'd have agree with that.