US ramps up sanction pressure on Russia

On Thursday, the US announced that it is expanding the sanctions against Russia for meddling in US elections, as part of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

27 Russians have been blacklisted for “acting on behalf of the intelligence or defense sector of the Russian government,” the US State Department reported.

The blacklisted Russians include GRU chief Igor Korobov and Yevgeny Prigozhin, who started as a restaurateur in St. Petersburg, and is now believed by Washington to be in charge of the Internet Research Agency, known in Russia as the “troll factory”.

The same sanctions now apply to the Wagner Private Military Company and Oboronlogistika, as well as the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Gagarin Aircraft Plant, which manufactures Sukhoi planes. Any entity which engages in “significant transactions” with any of the 72 blacklisted entities related to Russia’s intelligence and army will also be placed under sanctions, the US State Department warns.

The new measures are “aimed at imposing costs on Russia in response to its malign activities”, which include “interference in elections and unacceptable behavior in eastern Ukraine,” the department notes.

Furthermore, secondary sanctions will be introduced for the first time in connection with the purchase of Russian weapons. This time, they will affect China.

The Department of Training and Supply of China’s Central Military Commission bought Russian Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 anti-air defense systems, and will now join the Russian companies on the blacklist. It is banned from conducting operations in dollars, its assets in the US are frozen, and it is not authorized to receive products or technology originating from the US. Lee Shanfu, the head of the Chinese military department, is also placed under personal sanctions.

The US State Department stressed that these measures are not intended to impinge China’s defensive capabilities, but rather to “increase the cost for Russia”.

The decision to add to the sanctions was made in accordance with an executive order given by US President Donald Trump, who signed the order on Thursday, fixing the exact list of sanctions that threaten 210 officials and oligarchs.

The State Department, in conjunction with the Treasury Department, has prohibited all US banks from lending to sanctioned entities or accepting payments or goods from them. Banks must block these entities’ access to any currency operations under US jurisdiction, and freeze all property in the US, including a ban on selling these frozen assets.

For the first time, sanction power is divided between the two US departments, opening the door for them to make bylaws and get the “sanction machine” going.

  USA, Russia, US Elections, Sanctions on Russia, US Senate