Bucking the Buck: U.S. Financial Sanctions and the International Backlash against the Dollar

The U.S. dollar’s status as the dominant global currency has enabled Washington to wield its economic power through the threat of unilateral sanctions, prompting partners and adversaries alike to reconsider their reliance on the U.S. dollar. This was evidenced by the EU’s response to President Trump’s decision to leave the JCPOA and snapback sanctions, with senior officials calling for greater “sovereignty” and the use of the Euro to conduct more trade. Despite this, around 60 percent of foreign exchange reserves of central banks around the world are still held in U.S. dollars, though Washington’s decisions to freeze some assets have made countries reconsider this trend. What is the future of the U.S. dollar in global trade? Does the ever-expanding U.S. sanctions regime, particularly unilateral sanctions, threaten the popularity of the dollar? What potential implications do competing currencies have for U.S. interests, and to what extent is the supremacy of the U.S. dollar being challenged? What would this mean for U.S. interests? Join a discussion with Daniel McDowell that delves into the future of the U.S. dollar in global markets and the implications of the vast U.S. sanctions regime. The conversation will be moderated by QI’s Adam Weinstein.


Daniel McDowell

Daniel McDowell is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and a 2022-23 Wilson China Fellow at the Wilson Center. He is the author of two books: Bucking the Buck: US Financial Sanctions and the International Backlash against the Dollar, and Brother, Can You Spare a Billion? The United States, the IMF, and the International Lender of Last Resort. He holds Ph.D. and M.A. in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia.

Adam Weinstein (Moderator)

Adam Weinstein is a Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute. He previously worked for KPMG’s international trade practice. Adam’s current research focuses on security, trade, and rule of law in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Middle East. He previously worked as senior law and policy analyst at the National Iranian American Council where he focused on the securitization of U.S. immigration policy and its effect on immigrant communities. He is also a non-resident fellow at Tabadlab, an Islamabad based think tank and advisory firm. He received a JD from Temple University Beasley School of Law with a concentration in international law and transitional justice. Adam served as a U.S. Marine and deployed to Uruzgan Province Afghanistan in 2012.