Sanctions in U.S. - Russia Relations

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Given America’s leading position in the global economy, the U.S. government has frequently leveraged that power to punish “rogue states”, discourage nuclear proliferation, promote democratization, and create pressure for regime change. Washington relied on economic incentives in relations with Russia after 1991, but since 2012 the United States has utilized a broad range of economic sanctions against Russian side, leading to a significant deterioration in what was already a troubled relationship. In contrast to earlier comprehensive sanctions like those imposed on Iraq and Haiti, the U.S. is now crafting “smart” or targeted sanctions designed to exert maximum pressure on selected Russian elites and firms. Rather than evaluating the effectiveness of these measures on changing Russian behavior, the author explores the neglected domestic dimension of the U.S. sanctions process to improve understanding of U.S. foreign policy. This article draws on primary sources in the form of Congressional legislation, executive orders, and official statements to analyze U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia, and develops three brief case studies - the Magnitsky Act, post-Ukraine sanctions, and the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act - to explicate the main issues and actors driving U.S. sanctions. The author argues that domestic factors, including Congressional pressures and interest group activity, are critical to understanding U.S. sanctions regimes. While President Donald Trump has frequently resisted congressionally imposed sanctions, expectations for a more conciliatory approach towards Russia under the Trump administration have not materialized.

About the authors

Charles E. Ziegler

University of Louisville

PhD in Political Science, Professor of Political Science and University Scholar, University of Louisville (Kentucky, USA), Faculty Director, Executive Director, Louisville Committee on Foreign Relations Louisville, USA


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Copyright (c) 2020 Ziegler C.E.

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