Sanctions, Justice, and Trade

Intersection of Sanctions, Criminal Justice, and Trade

Originally Published May 15, 2014

The intersection of sanctions, criminal justice, and trade is something that I have thought about since I first began practicing law.  I hope to use this blog as a place to analyze developments in law and policy impacting this intersection of federal practice areas.  Thank you for reading.

Although sanctions and embargoes have long been a part of the American foreign policy tapestry, sanctions have only recently become its most prominent feature.  Treasury’s lead role on inter-agency task forces and in diplomatic negotiations covering topics such as WMD non-proliferation, intelligence, and national defense evidences the evolution of sanctions.

One just needs to scan the headlines from the past twelve months to notice Treasury’s expanded and prominent role with respect to Iran and the nuclear deal.  The narrative is that Iran, a persistent foreign policy problem since 1979, has only now brought itself to the negotiating table after the most recent rounds of crippling sanctions (and secondary sanctions) went into effect.

What’s clear is that sanctions are no longer just an official admonishment to some provocation by a foreign government.  Sanctions are a targeted mechanism of sticks and carrots designed to change the decision making calculus of specific foreign persons by leveraging against them the strength of the American economy.  When a country as connected to international commerce as Iran is pinched by sanctions it’s at least possible that sanctions impacted the country’s decision making calculus.  And now sanctions are at the forefront of a major international crisis between two longtime foes, the United States and Russia.

The United States has made clear that it will use sanctions to impose increasing costs on Russia for its actions in Ukraine.  Sanctions have already been imposed on Putin’s inner-circle, certain government officials, and the entities owned or controlled by such persons.  However, sanctions only work when U.S. persons comply with the regulations prohibiting their interactions with targeted entities or persons.  Therefore, the possibility of changing Russia’s decision making calculus through sanctions necessarily requires the United States to be willing to punish, fine, and imprison its own people and businesses.

The very real threat of punishment facing U.S. persons for disobeying sanctions causes them to change their behavior, comply with the law, and in the process, make sanctions a more effective foreign policy tool (hopefully).  Although the jury is still out on whether sanctions will be an effective tool against Russia, the imposition of sanctions will undoubtedly impact global trade and entangle U.S. persons in our regulatory and criminal justice systems.  Sanctions.  Justice.  And trade.

Disclaimer: Blog posts should not be relied upon as legal advice and are only provided for informational purposes.  Information contained in blog posts may also become outdated with the passage of time as laws change and U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives evolve.