Do Sanctions Work?





Economic sanctions are one of many foreign policy tools that states implement for a variety of reasons, such as deterring or punishing the unfavourable behaviour of target states. Evaluating whether sanctions work is crucial for policy makers and scholars alike for understanding the workings of global politics and for sanctioning states to determine how to more effectively utilise their resources. The traditional consensus of research performed over the past few decades is that sanctions have typically fallen short of producing desired results, but because sanctions have evolved over time to become more sophisticated in nature, recent analysts have come to the conclusion that sectoral and more targeted sanctions can be quite successful at producing desirable outcomes. This essay will explore the changing opinion of such analysts and conclude that targeted sanctions in particular can indeed be effective for various reasons, including the shift away from a bipolar world order, their complex structures aimed towards effecting particular groups within a recipient state, and a general revision to the criteria for which effectiveness is measured. Sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union against Russia after the latter’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 shall be observed as a case study, and it will be shown that whilst sanctions have not caused President Putin to withdraw his troops, the U.S. and EU’s efforts have nonetheless been in some ways successful at achieving their original goals.