July 2021

By Jeremiah J. Baronberg and Doug Campbell


This summer, the Biden administration is expected to conclude an extensive review of U.S. sanctions policy. With a greater focus on multilateralism than the previous administration, the Biden team’s new strategy will likely emphasize closer coordination with allies to achieve clearly defined policy objectives, while seeking to minimize collateral economic damages. The purported changes will have implications for a wide range of actors around the world, including governments, corporations, and individuals.

Economic sanctions have been a policy tool increasingly used by successive U.S. administrations aimed at altering the behavior of—or otherwise punishing, deterring, or limiting—perceived bad actors in situations that are resistant to traditional forms of diplomacy and direct negotiation. Recent examples include sanctions on Russian individuals involved in cyber attacks, Chinese officials involved in the repression of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang, and Iranian entities for malign activities in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Multilateral sanctions are typically seen as more effective than unilateral sanctions, as they involve the multiplied, coordinated actions of more than only one country working in concert to minimize benefits accrued by the target entity. Moreover, sanctions that narrowly target bad actors, while minimizing negative impacts on wider, tangential populations are more likely to gain multilateral support. While there may continue to be unique situations when the U.S. is compelled to bring unilateral sanctions to bear, it is more likely that the Biden Administration will seek to work in concert with allies and partners as often as possible.

Stay tuned as we continue to monitor these developments coming from the Biden White House.