08:59 GMT18 May 2021
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    Sanctions Are Counterproductive

    Level Talk with John Harrison
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    Sanctions have become the foreign policy instrument of choice for many countries. But do sanctions actually work? It can be argued that they are in fact counterproductive, and have only made resolution of international tensions more difficult if not impossible without the use of force.

    Dr. Lee Jones, Reader in International Politics at Queen Mary, University of London and Professor Daniel Kovalik, lecturer of International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, join this program.

    Dr. Lee comments that there is a general consensus that sanctions work about one third of the time. Despite the high failure rate, he sees that they are used because they are seen as being better than the alternative — which is war, and also because they create the feeling that something is being done about a particular country or issue. "In many cases they actually prepare countries for war, and there is a lot of contestation about that one third success rate, some people say that the success rate is as low as 5%….Most of the countries which are targeted by sanctions are ‘authoritarian' regimes, and these are the most resilient to sanctions, which may account for the high failure rate….Globalization and economic diffusion has certainly made enforcing sanctions a lot harder. You take a country like N. Korea; 90% of N. Korea's trade is with China, so if China wished to enforce sanctions it could have a crippling economic effect, but would it have the desired political outcome?, economic gain does not always translate into political gain, and that is precisely why China does not enforce sanctions fully because it may have disastrous consequences such as the collapse of the regime and the influx of vast numbers of refugees [into China]."

    Professor Kovalik comments that most sanctions are created for internal consumption of the country applying the sanctions. He says that the recent round of sanctions against Russia seems to have been passed for political reasons inside the US. The same could be said about the Iranian sanctions. "Firstly, sanctions are not even calculated to deal with what they are claimed to be dealing with. Secondly, you can say that countries, and the US is the biggest offender here, tends not to care about the suffering of the everyday person. An example is the US unilateral embargo against Cuba. They cost hundreds of millions of dollars, caused great suffering, and yet the US said it was doing it for the benefit of human beings." 

    Professor Kovalik mentioned that Germany has suggested that in regards to the new Russia sanctions, that "if a country like the US wants to sanction another country, they need to go to the Security Council." In regards to N. Korea, Professor Kovalik says that the sanctions are "painting N. Korea into a corner and so it has no choice but to behave in as bellicose a way as possible; conducting missile tests; I think the sanctions are counterproductive."

    Despite the drawbacks that Professor Kovalik points out, Dr. Lee says that sanctions will last. "Sanctions started to be used heavily in the 1980s, 1990s, with the rise of what then President Bush called the New World Order." R2P (the Right To Protect) is discussed in this context, and Professor Kovalik says: "I think the American people have to wake up to the fact that it is their country which is more of a threat to the rest of the world, than any other country. Polls from people around the world show that this is their belief… It is the US which has the empire and all of these threats and sanctions are signs of an empire in grave distress."

    An interesting discussion ensues about the ethical justification of sanctions and the introduction of so called ‘smart' sanctions. The connection of the use of sanctions and liberalism is discussed.

    The use of innocent people to bring about political change is close to the definition of terrorism, and yet this is what many sanctions are doing.

    We'd love to get your feedback at radio@sputniknews.com

    political tools, sanctions, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), US, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela
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