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Ivan Timofeev

Sanctions’ Policy: Unipolar or Multipolar World?

2019. Vol. 14. No. 3. P. 9–26 [issue contents]

This article examines the origins of the United States’ supremacy in the use of economic sanctions in the context of a wider discussion about the structure of the contemporary world order following the Cold War. Sanctions are understood as an instrument of power relations and a means of forcing “target” countries to fulfil the requirements of “sender” countries. The experience of deploying sanctions suggests that, from the point of view of economic power, the world today retains signs of unipolarity, while a polycentric world order is just one of the possible options for the future. The key research question is: why does the United States continue to have significant leverage in terms of implementing sanctions, despite the growing capabilities of other actors? In addition to U.S. dominance in the global financial system, two other factors are highlighted. The first is the relative weakness of the United Nations (UN) as a key global governance institution. While the United Nations is the only legitimate source of sanctions, it has far fewer institutional capabilities to run a sanctions policy compared to the United States. At the same time, the United States and other western powers successfully use the United Nations to increase the legitimacy of the unilateral measures, or play an active role in the UN Security Council, striving to legitimize their programmes and then supplementingthem with their own unilateral measures. The second factor is the difference in the perception of sanctions by national governments and private companies. While national governments often criticize unilateral sanctions, private business tends to comply or over-comply with U.S. measures, even when the national government tries to protect it. As a result, even the most powerful economic actors cannot convert their economic power into political power to counterbalance the United States. The question of how long the United States will be able to maintain its supremacy, and how effective the sanctions will be, is a focus of future research.

Citation: Timofeev I. (2019) Sanctions’ Policy: Unipolar or Multipolar World? International Organisations Research Journal , vol. 14, no 3., pp. 9-26 (in English). DOI: 10.17323/1996-7845-2019-03-01.
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