Currently there are sanctions against Iran for missile test, sanction against North Korea for its nuclear activities, sanctions against Russia for its intervention in Ukraine and so on. All these sanctions are having crippling effects.

Did the Western alliance try to put sanctions upon Warsaw Pact countries during Cold War? If yes, then why didn't it have any deterrence effect against the Soviet Block?

  • 4
    Pretty much continuously. I don't have time to write it up right now, but those who do might find this useful.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 3:24
  • 2
    Sanctions against individual countries would have been pointless, since they were not really independent. Policy was directed from Moscow, so any sanctions would have to apply to the USSR and all its satellites.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 4:24
  • 3
    While against individual countries it was pointless, the Socialist bloc was under constant embargo. Also most people forget that with the exception of USSR, these countries had no significant oil or mineral resources, and were sucked dry by the Russians, in short they had very limited dollar reserve to import things even if it was allowed. Iraq, Iran etc has a lot of oil to export, therefore potentially able to import stuff.
    – Greg
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 10:31
  • "economic sanction wars" what is that? War is the continuation of economic sanctions by other means.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 10:34
  • This question fails the basic research test. The trade restrictions against various eastern bloc nations are a matter of trivial historical record. Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 12:58

3 Answers 3


USSR was a Superpower with a big economy and a big alliance. Imposing sanctions to do major damages was beyond the capability of the USA.

Superpower is a term used to describe a state with a dominant position, which is characterized by its extensive ability to exert influence or project power on a global scale.

On the contrary, according to the definition, Russia is not a Superpower as it can't project its influence or power on a global scale. This is due to the fact that Russia doesn't have enough allies, and the size of the Russian economy is too small to do anything special.

NATO's Russian version CSTO has only six full members (after the exit of 3 members) and this organization doesn't pose any challenge to NATO whatsoever.

Eurasian Economic Union has only 5 members of which 4 of them are poor countries. BRICS and SCO are dominated by China.

  • There were significant trade restrictions vis a vis the USSR by the US as a matter of policy. Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 12:59

Sanctions generally work when the country which suffers is isolated relatively and rely on trade with the opposite members of the sanctions. When Warsaw Pact existed it formed a separate and relatively independent economic structure from the west. It was named Comecon.

As you said correctly: "All these sanctions are having crippling effects."

This is an essential part of a sanction. If the country or countries don't suffer from the sanction. Of course we all know Comecon as a centrally organized trade agreement was way less efficient than western free trade, but if there were any sanctions against Warsaw Pact members, it would never be efficient at all.

However de-facto there were sanctions between the two blocks, they generally avoided the trade with each other and COCOM list defined a series of high tech equipment which can't be sold to Warsaw Pact members. These actions were not very effective since both of the blocks were capable to maintain at least a basic living standard from their own resources until USSR overspent their money on military race and had serious structural problems. Also interesting fact is that computers generally weren't sold into USSR and allies, but they managed to make replicas like Hungarian Videoton computers.

  • Videoton IIRC was not a computer, but a CRT display. The Pact designed original computers (mostly in USSR, DDR, and Poland) until 1974; after a well-known infamous conference in D of Radio Industries the design efforts were abandoned, and the Pact switched to clones of IBM 360/370, aka ES series. That backfired hard in early 80es, during the PC revolution. Finland and (surprise) Kuwait did sell PCs to USSR.
    – user58697
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 6:16
  • @user58697 for example Videoton VT 110 was a lower quality copy of 8088. Videoton had a various profile in electronic and computation industry. Unfortunately I found only Hungarian sources, try auto translate, maybe it will provide some useful info: tfodor.hu/mgerlai-zujvari/ibm-kom.html Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 20:26
  • Sanctions generally do not work, anywhere, so that's hardly a full explanation.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 6:20
  • @Relaxed that is pretty much an opinion, I do believe the same, but I am afraid as an anarcho-capitalist I am in a very small minority on the political compass, so others might find it good idea and even think that it results something beneficial. Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 7:29
  • @CsBalazsHungary Well then you could write just that ;) “Sanctions are perceived as more effective against smaller states” or something along those lines.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 7:41

When you think about sanctions, you have to get your terminology right.

  • Boycott, the organized refusal to trade with somebody.
  • Embargo, the legal prohibition by a government to trade with somebody.
  • Sanction, coercive economic measures by several governments.

You could say that the capitalist countries had sanctions against the communist countries and vice versa, but that doesn't quite fit the word because two large blocks were facing each other. NATO and the West organized an embargo and some level of boycott, but it was not global and it was not understood to be global. There were non-aligned countries. Some in the West thought "if they're not with us, they're against us," but there were too many to carry this through.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.