Economic Sanctions during a Pandemic

Featuring Richard Nephew, Emma Ashford, and John Glaser

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has prompted renewed discussion of the humanitarian costs of one of America’s most frequently deployed foreign policy tools: economic sanctions. The near‐​total U.S. embargo on Iran handicapped its response to the coronavirus, with devastating results. Some have called to temporarily lift sanctions on humanitarian grounds, while others either deny that sanctions have blocked much‐​needed imports or insist that they be kept in place for security reasons. Other states targeted by harsh U.S. sanctions regimes, such as North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba, may also be at greater risk in the later stages of the pandemic.

A broader discussion of the utility of economic sanctions in U.S. statecraft is necessary because sanctions sometimes impose devastating humanitarian costs and they generally fail to achieve the policy objectives they were intended to produce. Even beyond the current crisis, policymakers need to reassess the use (and overuse) of economic sanctions more generally. Join us to have that very discussion.