Factsheet About U.S. Sanctions on Russia

The current sanctions regime on Russia represents a leverage for the US. It enjoys strong public support and has had a significant impact on Russia with minute economic costs for the US. Ultimately, sanctions on Russia have worked. They have helped restrain the Kremlin’s aggression by placing considerable economic costs on Russia.


A possible executive decision to lift sanctions on Russia would run counter to the view of many Americans:

  • 58% of all Americans see Russia as an enemy as opposed to only 21% which see it as an ally. 56% of Trump voters see Russia as an enemy as opposed to just 28% which see it as an ally. 46% to 24% of the US public is generally in favour of action against Russia[1].
  • Trump voters consider Trump’s views on Russia to be disconnected from theirs; 47% believe Trump sees Russia as an ally and only 29% think Trump sees it as an enemy[2].
  • Almost twice as many Americans (42% to 26%) say that Trump should keep sanctions against Russia. In fact, Republican voters (35% to 30%) think that Obama was not tough enough on Russia – suggesting they would like to see even tougher action from this administration.



The economic impact of sanctions on the US and its economy has been minimal.

  • Russia does not even rank among America’s top 20 trading partners.
  • Prior to 2014, Russia accounted for just 0.71% of US exports of goods. By comparison, for the EU, Russia was the third largest trading partner in 2014, accounting for 8.4% of total trade.
  • At the same time, closely coordinated with its European partners and compounded by the decline of global oil prices, US sanctions have had a substantial impact on the Russian economy. According to the IMF, Russia’s GDP contracted by 3.73 % in 2015 and by 0.76% last year.



  • Sanctions thus far have ultimately worked: their application – especially the sectoral measures – has constrained Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.
  • The impact of sanctions has been useful in signalling to Russia – but also to Iran and China -the consequences of violating the rules-based international order.
  • Should sanctions be rolled back, Russia would have little to offer in exchange to the US. Moscow’s actions go against core US political and security interests; instead of fighting ISIS, it bombs civilians in Syria. It destabilises the international order and tries to interfere in the democratic process of western states.



Lifting sanctions would mean a significant boost to Russia’s economy – net GDP growth of 0.5%, capital inflows of about $20 billion USD or 1.5% of Russia’s GDP, and a strengthening of the Rouble.

  • Moscow has yet to make real steps to end the conflict in Ukraine. It has taken virtually no steps to implement its obligations under the Minsk Agreements, beginning with a ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons.
  • Reversing course in the absence of significant concessions by Russia would signal that its military aggression will be tolerated in the future. It will undermine U.S. authority, credibility and leverage and it may send the wrong signal to those opposing the rules-based international order. It would embolden – not just Putin – but also China and Iran to challenge US leadership throughout the world.
  • As sanctions have helped contain Russian actions in Ukraine, Kyiv had the breathing space to focus on fundamental reforms and transformation. Lifting them would make Ukraine more vulnerable, therefore risking a reversal of the post-2014 reform efforts.