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President Biden Announces New Sanctions on Myanmar

Lucas Myers

Analysis from the Asia Program's Lucas Myers.

"On February 10th, the Biden administration announced targeted sanctions against the coup leaders, their business interests, and family members. Additionally, the U.S. is freezing $1 billion in Myanmar government funds held in the United States and other assets, as well as implementing “strong export controls." The target list and the extent of export controls remain to be formally announced, but the sanctions on some business sectors in Myanmar (such as mining and banking) that were halted in 2016 are likely possibilities for implementation.

These sanctions constitute the first—and easiest—step in the United States’ campaign to restore democratic rule in Myanmar. It sends a strong signal of U.S. resolve to oppose the military takeover in Myanmar and foster democracy in the Indo-Pacific.

At the same time, it is important to note that U.S. leverage is minimal, and many of the coup leaders were already under sanctions for their role in the Rohingya human rights violations.

Going forward, the Biden administration will likely work to coordinate a response with U.S. allies and partners. However, garnering buy-in from some allies and partners who remain reticent of imposing sanctions on Myanmar will likely prove a difficult task. With its limited leverage, U.S. sanctions are unlikely to substantially alter the coup leaders’ calculus or impose enough costs to restore democratic rule.

With large protests ongoing in Myanmar, the situation remains uncertain. The severity of the military’s response to the protests could trigger greater international opposition to the coup, but the United States will have its work cut out for it in coordinating a united international response."

About the Author

Lucas Myers

Lucas Myers

Program Associate, Asia Program
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Asia Program

The Asia Program promotes policy debate and intellectual discussions on U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific as well as political, economic, security, and social issues relating to the world’s most populous and economically dynamic region.   Read more