Presidents and Sanctions: What Does the Data Tell Us?

By Mike Flowers
Wednesday, May 31, 2017, 4:43 PM

With the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate—among other matters—whether the Trump transition team improperly dangled sanctions relief in front of Putin’s Russia, the role of U.S. sanctions in domestic politics has taken center stage in Washington.

Last month Enigma released the Sanctions Tracker, which brings together data from the Specially Designated Nationals and the Sectoral Sanctions Identifications lists to ground both sanctions news and speculation in historical context. The is the first (and only) tracker available to visualize and contextualize changes to U.S. sanctions programs. One of our aims is to provide transparency into how the new administration’s foreign policy approach compares to strategies under Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. To that end, today we are deploying a Presidential Sanctions Tracker directly on Lawfare to give readers the ability to anchor this rhetoric in data-driven reality. This Tracker complements our interactive map of sanctions across the globe, which we previously made available on Lawfare.

Our sanctions by presidency visualization allows you to compare sanctions activities across administrations to see how approaches differ. You’ll be able to monitor the new administration’s actions and how it fits with past precedent. With the Presidential Sanctions Tracker, Lawfare readers can contrast President Trump’s actions with how Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama leveraged sanctions in crafting U.S. responses to North Korean missile launches, worsening conditions in Venezuela, or Putin’s power plays in Eastern Europe and beyond. In short, we have used data to inject transparency into U.S. foreign policy, with its growing domestic political component.