US revises sanctions policy, warns of cryptocurrency threat
By Daphne Psaledakis and Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s administration on Monday announced a series of recommendations to revamp its use of economic sanctions to make them a more effective tool of U.S. foreign policy, but warned that more needed to be done to protect against the threat posed by the rise of cryptocurrencies.
Following a broad review launched shortly after Biden took office in January, the US Treasury Department unveiled a revised framework intended to take a more surgical approach to sanctions instead of the brutal method favored by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
The Treasury has warned that countries reducing the use of the US dollar and exposure to the US financial system could erode the effectiveness of sanctions, while digital currencies and other technological innovations also pose a risk to the tool’s success. .
While seeking to turn the page on the Trump era, the new policy prescriptions offered few details on how the Biden administration might change its handling of sanctions against major targets such as Iran, Venezuela and China. .
Treasury Department officials have pledged that more rigor will be added to the sanctions process while modernizing the tool through the new framework, which seeks to link designations to clear policy goals and underscores the importance of multilateral coordination and mitigation of humanitarian impacts.
The new guidelines also advise the Treasury to invest in building its technological capacity and its workforce as part of efforts to counter the threat of digital currencies.
“The key for us is to make sure that we are in a place where sanctions can be as effective as possible, and that means addressing the fact, the truth, that technology makes it easier for people to look out of the way. traditional US financial system, ”a senior Treasury official told reporters.
Treasury officials made it clear on Monday that sanctions will remain a crucial part of US foreign policy. The Biden administration has aimed for a much more targeted use of the tool while maintaining pressure on Venezuela, Iran and other countries under US sanctions.
“Sanctions are a fundamentally important tool in advancing our national security interests,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement.
“The Treasury Sanctions Review has shown that this powerful instrument continues to deliver results but also faces new challenges. We are committed to working with partners and allies to modernize and strengthen this essential tool.”
But so far, Biden’s approach, while continuing to inflict economic damage on sanctions targets, has not been more successful than Trump’s efforts to force America’s enemies and rivals to bow to it. the American will.
Trump has used sanctions as the preferred response to international issues ranging from Iran’s military activities and North Korea’s nuclear arsenal to the political crisis in Venezuela.
While maintaining many of Trump’s sanctions programs in place, Biden has made some changes since taking office.
He lifted the sanctions Trump had imposed on International Criminal Court officials and refrained from sanctioning European entities involved in building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia despite pressure from Republican lawmakers.
Biden has also offered to ease sanctions on Iran if he reverts to sticking to the 2015 nuclear deal Trump abandoned – although indirect negotiations between Washington and Tehran have stalled for months.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Alistair Bell)