International Sanctions with Domestic Benefits

As we begin a new year, it is interesting to look back on how things have changed in both our personal world and in the world at large. One interesting development that has taken place over the past two decades in the world of international politics has been the drastic increase in the use of economic sanctions. It seems as if the imposition and lifting of sanctions is the language of international diplomacy, rather than being a single tool in the diplomatic toolbox.

The efficacy of international sanctions in changing a country’s behavior is debatable. One study, as reported by World Finance, found that economic sanctions only have a 20-30% success rate in this regard. Nonetheless, even if economic sanctions may not be the most effective way of changing behavior, they can provide an economic benefit to the countries that impose them.

The prosecution of foreign banks located in New York for violating state laws and international sanctions elucidates this point. A Wall Street Journal article reported that in the last two decades, the Manhattan district attorney’s office collected $4.6 billion in penalties and forfeitures related to the violation of economic sanctions, primarily from foreign banks.

The article quoted the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., as saying that the penalties and forfeitures “ha[ve] enabled the office to invest in crime prevention and justice system reform.” If these beneficial investments can be achieved while imposing fair sanctions that promote international wellbeing, then the domestic benefits are the icing on the cake! The Association of Certified Sanctions Specialists explained that as the use of economic sanctions continues to increase, the role of state agencies will also increase in prosecuting violations at the state level. Furthermore, if the Manhattan district attorney’s office is an indicator of what kinds of benefits prosecuting sanction violations can lead to, then the continued prosecution of sanction violations in Milwaukee — which is the location of the North American headquarters for many international corporations — may be able to play a role in funding important developments.

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