Financial sanctions and political risk in the international currency system

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Scholarship on international currencies has traditionally emphasised how an issuing state’s foreign policy can enhance the attractiveness of its currency for cross-border use. Yet, foreign policy actions need not only boost a currency’s international appeal—they may also undermine it. This study introduces a general theory of how US foreign policy can influence governments’ policy orientations toward the dollar in positive or negative ways. Policies like financial sanctions generate ‘political risk’ that weaken the dollar’s attractiveness for international use. The study tests the claim that the United States’ use of financial sanctions incentivises targeted governments to implement de-dollarization policies. I employ a most-likely case study design, presenting evidence from three countries targeted by US sanctions: Russia, Venezuela and Turkey. In each instance, the evidence shows that financial sanctions created political risk concerns by generating expectations of future direct costs of dollar use. These expectations set off policy efforts by targeted governments to reduce their economies’ exposure to the currency. This study raises important questions about the long-term efficacy of an approach to foreign policy that relies on financial sanctions as a primary means of leverage over foreign adversaries as overuse may undermine the effectiveness of the tool itself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalReview of International Political Economy
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020


  • de-dollarization
  • dollar
  • financial power
  • international currency
  • political risk
  • sanctions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Political Science and International Relations

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