A newfound focus on great-power competition has brought geoeconomics to the forefront of strategic thinking in Washington D.C. The United States is well positioned to use coercive economic tools, particularly unilateral sanctions, in this game because of its structural advantages in the global economy and financial system.

President Donald Trump and his administration have also signalled a preference for the unilateral use of sanctions to excel in the competitive international geostrategic environment and confront “rogue regimes”.

Meanwhile, wrangling between Congress and the White House over sanctions policy has intensified since the 2016 presidential election.

These systemic, policymaker-bounded and domestic-political factors have created a perfect storm in US sanctions policy. While the US may be able to pursue sanctions unilaterally in the short term, in the long run this may dissuade allies from cooperating and erode America’s structural advantages as other states resort to hedging.

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