President-elect Joe Biden will recalibrate America's sanctions policy, increasing pressure on some countries while easing off others, Reuters has reported, citing multiple sources said to be "familiar with his thinking."
“It won’t be a pullback or a push forward. It will be a readjustment in the use of the sanctions tool,” one source close to the transition team said.
A review of the sanctions policy is expected to take place soon after the 20 January inauguration, with Adewale Adeyemo, Biden’s pick for deputy treasury secretary, expected to lead the reassessment. Adeyemo announced earlier this month that the US would continue to use sanctions broadly “to hold bad actors accountable.”
Among the entities reportedly set to receive relief are officials from the International Criminal Court, whom the Trump White House sanctioned in September over an investigation into possible US war crimes in Afghanistan.
Russia, meanwhile, is expected to be hit with more sanctions, with Biden likely to follow in the UK and EU’s footsteps on measures related to the Navalny case. Alleged Russian election meddling, cyberattacks, and the summer’s (debunked) reports about Russian cash bounties on US soldiers’ lives in Afghanistan are also potential reasons Moscow can expert further embargoes.
North Korea may also see sanctions against it ramped up after Trump, who managed to create a personal rapport with Kim Jong-un, leaves the White House and is replaced by Biden, who has called the North Korean leader a “thug,” “tyrant,” and “butcher” and criticised Trump over his Korea denuclearisation negotiations.
Iran is expected to be a "dilemma" for Biden, according to Reuters, with the Democrat’s options including improving the country’s access to humanitarian goods as a first step to lowering tensions.
The Biden team is also said to be concerned by Trump’s excessive use of sanctions, particularly if it encourages countries under pressure to create alternatives to sidestep US-dominated financial networks.
The US dramatically expanded the use of sanctions in the 20th century, especially during the Cold War, and currently targets Cuba, Syria, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, and Sudan with broad-ranging restrictions, as well as Russian, Belarusian, Chinese, and Venezuelan officials, entities and businesses, and individuals "contributing to conflict or destabilisation’ in countries including Yemen, Somalia, DR Congo, the Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, and South Sudan.