From Targeted Sanctions to Central Banks: The Future of U.S. Economic Sticks

Economic sanctions and other forms of economic coercion have become the “go to” response for both the executive branch and Congress over the past decades to punish or compel policy change. Today, the United States applies broad economic sanctions against North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Syria, and the Crimea, with targeted sanctions leveled against many other states.

In the past half year, Washington has upped the ante, immobilizing the central banks of Afghanistan and Russia and sending their economies into freefall. In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration has worked with European partners to sanction the Russian Central Bank and prevent it from softening the blow of U.S. sanctions by cutting off hundreds of billions of dollars it holds around the world. And last August, the United States froze over $7 billion dollars of foreign reserves belonging to Afghanistan’s central bank when the Taliban took control of the country. Half of that money now sits in a third party trust while the other half is being fought over in court by 9/11 victims and their families who hold the Taliban responsible for the attack.

What happens when the assets of a central bank are seized or sanctioned overnight? Can fledgling economies survive this level of economic shock and how? Once a country’s banking sector is taken offline is it possible to revive it or is the damage irreversible? What does this mean for the dollar’s global dominance? And what is the future of the U.S. Federal Reserve as the “central bank of central banks,” given this recent record of action?

Join us for a panel that cuts through the economic and legal complexity of sanctions and central banks to explore the latest iteration and most robust of U.S. sanctions policy. The discussion will feature Adam Tooze, professor of economic history at Columbia University; Delaney Simon, senior analyst at International Crisis Group, and William Byrd, senior expert at the United States Institute of Peace. Adam Weinstein, research fellow at the Quincy Institute, will moderate.


Adam Tooze

Adam Tooze is a professor of history and director of the European Institute at Columbia University. He was previously director of International Security Studies at Yale University. His books include Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of the Global Order 1916-1931 (2014); Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World (2018); and most recently, Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World's Economy (2021). He has written and reviewed for the Financial Times, the Guardian, the Sunday Telegraph, the TLS, the LRB, the New left Review, the New Statesman, the WSJ, the New York Times, the New York Review of books, Dissent, Die Zeit, Spiegel, TAZ and the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Tooze received his Ph.D. from the London School of Economics.

Delaney Simon

Delaney Simon is senior analyst for the U.S. program at International Crisis Group. She researches and writes about U.S. foreign policy in conflict zones and non-military tools for crisis prevention. She joined Crisis Group in October 2021. Before joining Crisis Group, Delaney worked for the United Nations in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Yemen. Working on the ground in those countries from 2015 to 2021, she advised senior United Nations officials on political stability, conflict mitigation and humanitarian planning. She has also worked as Special Assistant to Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations in New York and as a researcher on conflict policy in Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere for the United Nations and other organizations.

William Byrd

Dr. William Byrd is a development economist whose academic background includes a doctorate in economics from Harvard University and a master's degree in East Asian Regional Studies from the same institution. He joined USIP in April 2012 as a senior expert, working on Afghanistan. Dr. Byrd had long experience at the World Bank, where most of his work was country-focused, including China, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He lived for significant lengths of time in all of these countries and speaks Dari and Chinese, with some knowledge of other languages. During 2002-2006, he was stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he served as the World Bank’s country manager for Afghanistan and then as economic adviser.

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 and Pakistan. He is a member of the American Pakistan Foundation’s Leadership Council, and 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 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.