Kicking and Screaming

6 April 2018


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

US Sanctions Russian Oligarchs, Officials and Companies 


The US Treasury has announced economic sanctions on 7 Russian oligarchs, 17 officials and 12 companies in response to the seemingly endless Russian misbehavior on the world stage. President Trump's supporters are claiming this is proof that he isn't in Vladimir Putin's pocket, but his administration is being forced into this, kicking and screaming, by Congress. Most notably absent from the list, for instance, is President Putin himself, and Mr. Trump seems unable to say anything negative about the Chekist-in-Chief, let alone freeze the assets he stole from the Russian people.

The good news is that the Treasury Department acted because Congress made it act. Despite the deep partisan divide, the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act [CAATSA] passed by veto-proof majorities in Congress last summer. Sanctions against Iran, North Korea and Russia were all part of CAATSA.

In the case of Russia, the Act imposes a duty on the executive to take actions in response to "(1) cyber security, (2) crude oil projects, (3) financial institutions, (4) corruption, (5) human rights abuses, (6) evasion of sanctions, (7) transactions with Russian defense or intelligence sectors, (8) export pipelines, (9) privatization of state-owned assets by government officials, and (10) arms transfers to Syria" according to Wikipedia.

"The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites," said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. "Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government's destabilizing activities." The point is to harm the gangsters who are robbing the Russian people and to leave the victims of the crimes alone.

After the chemical attack Russia undertook in the British town of Salisbury, Mr. Trump had no choice but to do something. The expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats was a symbolic gesture, but the sanctions that Congress has required will actually help.

On the list is Oleg Deripaska, a close associate of President Putin and a man who made his billions misappropriating resources from the Russian aluminum industry. He is also deeply involved in the Paul Manafort dimension of the Mueller investigation. He and Manafort had a falling out, with Mr. Manafort owning millions. The former Trump campaign manager went so far as to offer his creditor personal briefings during the 2016 presidential election campaign to try to "get whole."

The Kremlin will, undoubtedly, make some move in an attempt at tit-for-tat retaliation. However, given the immense financial power of the US, the fact that the oligarchs like to live and invest outside Russia and that few Americans have anything to do with Russia, it's hard to see how Mr. Putin can do much to harm US interests. However, he can and will provide government support for those companies on the Treasury's list. He will also find ways to compensate the targeted individuals by manipulating the organs of the state.

In dealing with Chekists and mafiosi, though, no single action is sufficient to make them behave like civilized human beings. Inevitably, one is engaged in a war of attrition. A few moves here, a few more there, over time it all adds up. The game is a long one. Mr. Putin will never change. He will always be looking for advantage, and a constant state of deterrence is needed. He is not, however, immortal. If his successor sees that the confrontational Putin approach achieved nothing, a new Russian policy may emerge. His successor may decide to pursue confrontation anyway, but deterrence is the only way to open up an alternative.

© Copyright 2018 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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