I am asking about nations that would be considered “Great Powers”. It is my understanding that the U.S. oil embargo on Imperial Japan did nothing to stop Japan’s war in China and actually caused them to turn to war with the U.S. Can anyone point to a case where sanctions prevented a war?

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    What has your preliminary research revealed? Does Wikipedia answer the question? What about other sources like Economist
    – MCW
    Feb 24, 2022 at 11:14
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    Note that you are much less likely to hear about cases where was was avoided than about wars which weren't.
    – Mark Olson
    Feb 24, 2022 at 14:29

2 Answers 2


Yes, The Netherlands was fighting a brutal war against Indonesian rebels from 1945 until 1949 in (then) the Dutch East Indies. When America told The Netherlands they had to choose between receiving Marshall Aid or keep the colony but not both, they choose to grant Indonesia independence.

It's possible the Dutch would have granted Indonesia independence without that threat, but it was the deciding factor.

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    Thank you for your answer. While great information I’m asking about sanctions that prevented a war between large independent nations. Not civil wars or rebellions within a nation or colony. Maybe the Cuban missile crisis is a better example of what I’m talking about. In that case the blockade lead to a “back room” deal with JFK secretly agreeing to remove missiles from Turkey.
    – cattmurry
    Feb 24, 2022 at 15:35

Suez Crisis

After the UK/France/Israel invaded Egypt, the US (and other countries, but mostly the US) threatened sanctions, and the allies withdrew.

The United States also put financial pressure on the UK to end the invasion. Because the Bank of England had lost $45 million between 30 October and 2 November, and Britain's oil supply had been restricted by the closing of the Suez Canal, the British sought immediate assistance from the IMF, but it was denied by the United States. Eisenhower in fact ordered his Secretary of the Treasury, George M. Humphrey, to prepare to sell part of the US Government's Sterling Bond holdings. The UK government considered invading Kuwait and Qatar if oil sanctions were put in place by the US.

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Harold Macmillan, advised his Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, that the United States was fully prepared to carry out this threat. He also warned his Prime Minister that Britain's foreign exchange reserves simply could not sustain the devaluation of the pound that would come after the United States' actions; and that within weeks of such a move, the country would be unable to import the food and energy supplies needed to sustain the population on the islands. However, there were suspicions in the Cabinet that Macmillan had deliberately overstated the financial situation in order to force Eden out. What Treasury officials had told Macmillan was far less serious than what he told the Cabinet.

In concert with U.S. actions, Saudi Arabia started an oil embargo against Britain and France. The U.S. refused to fill the gap until Britain and France agreed to a rapid withdrawal. Other NATO members refused to sell oil they received from Arab nations to Britain or France.

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    One of those "other countries" was the Soviet Union. It was one of those rare times during the Cold War that the two superpowers took the same position rather than starting a proxy war.
    – Spencer
    Feb 26, 2022 at 13:29
  • Thank you for you answer. Great information.
    – cattmurry
    Feb 27, 2022 at 20:48
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    You know, combined with the other answer, it mostly sounds like sanctions are only really effective when used by the US against its allies...
    – nick012000
    Mar 6, 2022 at 20:31
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    Sanctions must be enacted by someone powerful, against someone with strong trade links, if they're to be effective. So it makes sense the US imposing them on their allies would work.
    – Stuart F
    Mar 7, 2022 at 11:11
  • Well, this is a bit of a borderline case, because hostilities had ended, the objectives had not been achieved, and there was a lot of internal opposition in the UK. But, still valid I guess. Would you mind making a slight edit so I can upvote?
    – einpoklum
    May 8, 2023 at 13:04

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