Transatlantic Sanctions Policy: From the 1982 Soviet Gas Pipeline Episode to Today
Though many commentators have suggested that the Trump administration’s approach with respect to sanctions threats against Europe is “unprecedented,” the relative comity in US-European sanctions policymaking in recent years may be the aberration. The United States and Europe have often disagreed about whether, when, and how to impose sanctions against even common adversaries and in order to resolve mutually recognized problems. One of the most serious examples of this occurred in 1982 when the United States and its European allies broke sharply over the US decision to impose sanctions on the Soviet Union over the crackdown on the Solidarity Movement in Poland. The crisis that emerged tested the NATO Alliance, European governments, and the Reagan administration.
This paper reviews the 1982 example and then sets some lessons from it against the current US-European relationship. It offers an assessment not only of the changing political, economic, and social factors that have contributed to greater compliance with US sanctions dictates on the part of Europe over the last few years, but also the relatively brittle nature of this cooperation. It underscores that, though the United States may be in a relatively predominant economic position at present, this situation may not and likely will not persist indefinitely.
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