As much as a threat of sanctions serves as a deterrent of wrongdoings, a conditional promise (in any form, can be either in a form of law or just not-formal public announcement) of revoking them when such wrongdoings are ended might serve as a stimulus for ending them.

As an illustration, let's consider sanctions (both already imposed and potential) against Russian oligarchs because of the invasion. Although it is not formally stated anywhere, the goal of the sanctions is to stimulate the oligarch to make pressure on Putin to stop the war or (possibly) organize some kind of a coup which will also end the conflict. If the counties which impose such sanctions will commit (either legally or just by publicly saying that) to lift them provided the desired change happened, the oligarchs might be much more willing to act.

So, why don't countries announce conditions for lifting when they impose sanctions?

Note: although the sanctions for the Russian invasion is an important example, this question is about sanctions mechanism in general and not about a particular case.

  • I would argue the oligarch sanctions are as much about causing general economic damage and post-facto punitive punishment for being complicit in the Putin regime as much as sanctions are about stimulating behavior change.
    – H Huang
    Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 16:06
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    You mean it would help Russia to explicitly know that the sanctions will probably be lowered or ended if they stop fighting immediately, return to base and start negotiating instead of rather implicitly knowing that? Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 16:07
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    "oligarchs might be much more willing to act" related Does Putin need the support of the Russian oligarchs in order to stay in power? Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 16:09
  • @HHuang, ok, what about Russian Central bank assets freezing? Such sanction directly damages ordinary Russians, and Scholz clearly stated that he doesn't hold ordinary people accountable.
    – kandi
    Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 16:18
  • @Trilarion "help Russia" not quite. Putin already knows that (and he can make a call to be sure), but as for other actors - yes, indeed. I don't see how a head of a certain bank can be sure that his actions will cause lifting sanctions on his bank in particular
    – kandi
    Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 16:22

2 Answers 2


The goal is to stay the one to decide if the sanction should be lift or not if you give the condition for it. You are offering your opponent the possibility to respect the letter of it while avoiding the spirit or to follow them and do something worse on the side.

Instead now you have put the sanction on the table and if other want them lift they can negotiate (if I do that, if I stop that can you lift that or this?)

  • 'respect the letter of it while avoiding the spirit' conditions are not necessarily formally-stated
    – kandi
    Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 16:41
  • @kandi yes but the question is why are they not formally-stated because yes if not the condition to lift the sanction are mostly know by everyone Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 16:46
  • although there is no indications in the question that it is about formal statements only, it's my bad that I didn't clarify that, added additional clarification
    – kandi
    Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 17:05

Not stating specific grounds leaves both parties free to negotiation in innovative ways not contemplated when the sanctions were imposed.

The concept is that sanctions are usually lifted as a result of a negotiated agreement like a treaty, so that specificity is not needed. Negotiations are fluid and demands ebb and shift over time as the situation evolves.

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