2019 - ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AS A TOOL OF FOREIGN POLICY

Christian TYBRING-GJEDDE (Norway)

16 April 2019

This draft general report explores the role of sanctions in international policy-making and considers the conditions under which these tools can be effective. Economic sanctions have long assumed a significant role in the conduct of foreign and security policy, and there has been an ongoing debate among NATO Allies about the appropriateness of these tools and their effectiveness in achieving the ends they set out to achieve.  On the spectrum between peace-time diplomacy and war, sanctions tend to operate at various points in the middle.  Sanctions can assume the form of punishment, policing, or deterrence. They are integrated into a continuum of options and tools to advance national security interests through influence, diplomacy, or coercion.  In some instances, the mere threat of sanctions can be enough to compel policy changes. Just as war can be avoided if the threat of it is exploited to find diplomatic solutions, so too can the threat of sanctions encourage concession making at the negotiating table. But at critical moments, that threat must be backed up with action. At the same time, the sanctioning country also needs to devise and signal the conditions under which sanctions will be lifted. Threatening sanctions and offering scenarios in which they might be lifted is a critical component of an effective sanctions policy, and this dimension of the policy needs to be considered as closely as the initial decision to impose sanctions. 

The draft report goes on to look at several recent cases in which both North America and Europe have employed sanctions policy to achieve critical policy ends: Iran, Russia and North Korea.  It suggests that sanctions work best when the goals are clear, international consensus in support of those sanctions is solid, and there is an apparent road map for the sanctioned country that, if followed, will lead to the lifting of sanctions.