Biden considers harder sanctions on Russia


Ukrainians are annoyed with Donald Trump and think he has done damage by maintaining good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But they definitely do not remember – it was President Barack Obama, who had given silent nod to Putin’s invasion of Crimea. And we need to remember – it was Joe Biden, who was then Obama’s Vice President. Writes Vijaya Laxmi Tripura

Now, Ukrainians are becoming optimistic with Biden administration, thinking he will impose tougher sanctions on Vladimir Putin and Russia and help rescue Crimea from Russian occupation.

Roland Freudenstein, policy director at Wilfried Martens Center for European Studies said: Let’s give the Biden administration a bit more time, please. Regardless, the moves — tepid or not — send a signal to Russia that the US will respond to the Kremlin’s totalitarian actions at home and abroad.

Experts believe that even if the sanctions don’t cause strong economic damage to Russia, they will have a political impact. The Russian Foreign Ministry has already called the sanctions “a hostile move.”

“Sanctions rarely change someone else’s behavior by 180 degrees,” Freudenstein told the Kyiv Post.

“But without sanctions against Russia in 2014, Mariupol would not be a free city anymore,” he said of Russia’s military aggression in eastern Ukraine. “Putin then wanted his forces to push on. He stopped them because of the sanctions, and the threat of more sanctions to come. That’s already something.”

On March 2, the US slapped sanctions against senior Russian officials and institutions, accusing them of poisoning Alexei Navalny, the fiercest critic of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

In August 2020, the FSB tried to assassinate Navalny by putting a nerve agent in his underwear. The opposition leader spent months recovering in a German hospital. When he returned to Russia, law enforcement threw him in prison for allegedly missing a court appearance while he laid unconscious.

When they announced the latest sanctions, White House officials told Russia to release Navalny.

The U. S. sanctions target seven senior Russian officials including Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov, Federal Security Service Chief Aleksandr Bortnikov and Federal Penitentiary Service director Aleksander Kalashnikov.

Their American property has been blocked, as have all their businesses anywhere in the world. American citizens are banned from financially interacting with them.

Anna Myroniuk wrote in the Kyiv Post: The US worked with the European Union. Brussels sanctions target practically the same people. The EU imposed travel bans and froze their assets. The United Kingdom also joined in with visa bans and asset freezes.

But sanctioning individuals is not the end of it.

Both the EU and the U.K. also froze the assets of Russia’s State Scientific Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology.

The US penalties are even broader. They hit 13 Russian companies as well as the FSB and the institutes producing biological and chemical agents.

In the new sanction package, the State Department expanded on the existing Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act sanctions that had been imposed after Russia poisoned ex-spy Sergey Skripal in the UK in 2018.

Oleksandr Krayev, an expert with the Ukrainian Prism nonprofit analytical center, says sanctions against research institutions are a strong response to the Russian use of nerve agents against political opponents.

“It is important to note that Russia is technically lagging behind the Western world despite creating an image that it does not rely on imported technologies,” Krayev said. “Blocking technological cooperation with the U.S. is a significant step.”

“This is a signal not only for American companies but to the entire world that Russian science in the field of chemical development should not be cooperated with,” Krayev said.

Obama-like sanctions by Biden

Although Biden administration’s sanction on Russian individuals and organization came into effect on March 2, 2021, analysts are critical of this sanction stating it is “too soft to punch”. One of the many reasons behind such opinion is – there have been actually no new sanctions against the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, that Russia built to export has to Germany, bypassing Ukraine. American policymakers believe, this would increase Europe’s energy dependence on Russia.

According to Kyiv Post, Timothy Ash, a London-based emerging markets strategist, called the latest sanctions a “total joke.”

“The Biden administration sends a poor signal to Moscow from the start that it is not willing to bear the cost of countering Russian aggression,” he said in an emailed comment and added:

“The West has to learn that we have to be prepared to accept there is a price for countering Russian aggression.”

Ash said that economically, the sanctions caused little, if any damage.

“Markets will view this with relief,” he said. The ruble strengthened on the news about the sanctions.

“These new sanctions will have hardly any economic impact,” agreed Anders Aslund, a Swedish economist and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

“But more sanctions on oligarchs and finance are likely to come and they will have more impact”.

In late January, Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation emailed Washington’s top officials, calling on them to include 35 oligarchs and Putin associates in the sanctions list.

The Biden administration did not acquiesce. Although Joe Biden and his administration had announced that more sanctions on Russia were on the pipeline, critics of the Democratic Party believe, the US President and his administration may actually use the softer sanction they have imposed on Russia as an effective tool of blackmailing and extorting financial benefits.


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