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Why the Russia sanctions are missing the mark

By Kenneth Rogoff

03 Mar 2023 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

In PS, Harvard professor Kenneth Rogoff claims that the sanctions imposed on Russia have been far less damaging than those meted out to North Korea and Iran. Are secondary sanctions needed? he asks.

CAMBRIDGE – US President Joe Biden deserves all the praise he received for his recent trip to Ukraine and Poland to mark the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion. Biden’s ten-hour train ride from the Polish border to Kyiv – no small feat for an octogenarian leader – completely pre-empted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s propaganda plans for the occasion. It was a great day for Ukraine, the United States, and its NATO allies.

But when, during a speech at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Biden claimed that the current sanctions on Russia represent “the largest sanctions regime ever imposed on any country in history,” his statement, though accurate, was also misleading. The sanctions that the US has used elsewhere, for example on North Korea and Iran, have been far more severe than the current sanctions on Russia, because they include secondary sanctions on third-party countries that continue to trade with these regimes. In the case of Russia, this is only just starting.

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