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‘How Does This End?’ A Question for Economic as Well as Military War

‘How Does This End?’ A Question for Economic as Well as Military War

For those interested in the challenge of economic statecraft, I would direct your attention to a bit of moonlighting I did with the competition: a short piece on the challenges of unwinding financial sanctions, posted over at Foreign Affairs. I co-wrote it with Eric Lorber, a former graduate student and now specialist in the new arts of economic statecraft. (We previously posted a related piece here on Shadow where I belong.)

The gist of our piece, which draws on more extensive research we did, is that the new kinds of sanctions, which are becoming the favored tool of statecraft over the past decade, are particularly powerful — but they are also particularly tricky to unwind. Unwinding sanctions is a crucial part of coercive diplomacy: You get the target to make the concessions you want both by credibly threatening that the pain will increase if he doesn’t and by credibly promising that the pain will lessen if he complies.

The strategic community has long understood that starting coercive diplomacy — that is, beginning the process of making military threats and carrying through with them — is easier than ending it successfully. We argue that analogous challenges attend economic coercive diplomacy. Given that the lion’s share of our efforts to push back against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s adventurism will be in the realm of economic coercive diplomacy, understanding these challenges is a high priority for current strategy.