Russia sanctions 101: five questions you were too embarrassed to ask

President Obama has announced several rounds of economic sanctions on Moscow, acting with European allies. Here are answers to some simple questions about sanction specifics.

3. Aren’t sanctions usually aimed at nations?

It’s true that in history, economic sanctions have generally been a blunt instrument swung at whole countries. The US cut off trade with Japan in 1940, for instance, to try to curb its belligerence. (Didn’t work.) That approach continued through much of the modern era of United Nations-directed economic sanctions. In 1990, the UN Security Council imposed sweeping trade cutoffs on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The UN approved blanket sanctions against Haiti and Yugoslavia later that decade.

But starting in the mid-’90s, diplomats began talking openly about “smart sanctions” aimed more narrowly at individuals. That’s because the more blunt instrument can hurt whole populations and make life miserable for innocent civilians. Take Iraq, where UN sanctions cut the nation’s economic activity in half. This created a humanitarian crisis, which Mr. Hussein blamed on the US.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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