Over the past few months, the US and its allies have repeatedly showed that they will continue pressuring Russia with sanctions, including a possible attempt to impose a full blockade of the Russian economy. The actions aimed to punish Rusisa for proiding an independent foreign policy under various pretexts.
The sanctions already imposed on Russia as well as a threat of new sanctions have already complicated international payments of Russian companies. Thus, Moscow has been forced to payments in ruble and national currencies of the countries involved. An example of this approach can be observed in the Chinese-Russian cooperation and an expected Indian-Russian deal on four Talwar-Class frigates. At the same time, Moscow is working to build up the country’s national reseve [thanks to high oil and gas prices] and has sharply cut its holdings of US Treasuries. Despite these measures, Russia’s ruble has fallen by about 20% since June. An interesting fact is that in the same period, currencies of other developing countries, like Turkey and Argentina, collapsed even more.
Nonetheless, it would be wrong to say that Russia has successfully resisted to the US-led attempt to pressure its economy. The US and its allies are yet to employ their most effective measures.
This is a list of actions undertaken by the US-led bloc to put sanction pressure on Russia from August 2017 to September 2018:
- August 2, 2017 – Behind closed doors, Trump signs a bipartisan sanctions bill responding to the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump releases a statement upon signing the legislation, calling it “flawed” and noting his concern that the bill “improperly encroaches on Executive power, disadvantages American companies, and hurts the interests of our European allies.” – Several provisions of the law target the Russian energy sector, with new limits on U.S. investment in Russian companies. American companies also would be barred from participating in energy exploration projects where Russian firms have a stake of 33 percent or higher. The legislation includes sanctions on foreign companies investing in or helping Russian energy exploration, although the president could waive those sanctions. It would give the Trump administration the option of imposing sanctions on companies helping develop Russian export pipelines, such as the Nord Stream 2 pipeline carrying natural gas to Europe, in which German companies are involved. SOURCE
- December 21, 2017 – EU prolongs economic sanctions on Russia by six months. The sanctions are the following: limiting access to EU primary and secondary capital markets for 5 major Russian majority state-owned financial institutions and their majority-owned subsidiaries established outside of the EU, as well as three major Russian energy and three defence companies; imposing an export and import ban on trade in arms; establishing an export ban for dual-use goods for military use or military end users in Russia; curtailing Russian access to certain sensitive technologies and services that can be used for oil production and exploration. In addition to these economic sanctions, several EU measures are also in place in response to the crisis in Ukraine including: targeted individual restrictive measures, namely a visa ban and an asset freeze, currently against 150 people and 38 entities until 15 March 2018; restrictive measures in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, limited to the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol, currently in place until 23 June 2018.
- January 8, 2018 – The EU has added several individuals and entities to its list of persons subject to an asset freeze and travel restrictions, as part of sanctions targeting the Russian Federation. It has also introduced an exception to the Russian sanctions for a chemical necessary to a joint mission of the European and Russian space agencies. On 30 November 2017, the Council of the EU adopted an amendment to the main regulation imposing sanctions on Russia for its role in destabilising Ukraine. This creates an exception to the arms embargo against Russia for hydrazine – a chemical used in rocket fuel. This is intended to permit certain transactions concerning hydrazine, which is necessary for the flight of the ExoMars carrier module, a joint mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
- November 20, 2017 – the EU added Dmitry Vladimirovich Ovsyannikov, Governor of Sevastopol, to its asset freeze list for his actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. SOURCE
- January 19, 2018 – Defense Secretary James Mattis unveils the National Defense Strategy, which shifts the primary U.S. focus away from combating terrorism to rising threats posed by Russia, China, and rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran. In his remarks at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, Mattis takes direct aim at Russia, saying, “To those who would threaten America’s experiment in democracy: If you challenge us, it will be your longest and worst day.” SOURCE
- January 29, 2018 – As part of the sanctions package passed in August, the administration is required by law to begin sanctioning individuals conducting significant business with a list of Russian defense and intelligence entities. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says that the administration will not immediately implement sanctions and that the law is already having its intended effect of reducing defense acquisitions from Russia. Those named on the list will not immediately face any immediate penalties like asset freezes or visa bans. But the law mandated that the U.S. Treasury and State Departments, and intelligence agencies, compile a list of political figures and business people close to Putin’s government and network, for potential future sanctions. The sanctions law also required the administration to release a list of oligarchs linked to Putin. On Jan. 29, the Treasury Department releases an unclassified list of 114 senior Russian political figures and 96 business people. However, the Treasury Department notes that the list wasn’t a “sanctions list” and the individuals listed do not “meet the criteria for designation under any sanctions program.” SOURCE
- March 12, 2018 – The European Council prolonged for a further six months, until 15 September 2018, the application of sanctions targeting actions against Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence. The measures consist of asset freezes and a travel ban applying to 150 people and 38 entities. SOURCE
- March 15, 2018 – The Trump administration announces it will meet the congressional mandate to implement Russian sanctions legislation passed in August and reveals Russian efforts to penetrate the U.S. energy grid, according to CNN. The sanctions include five entities and 19 individuals, including those already indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in February. According to Reuters, the individuals sanctioned did not include oligarchs and other Russian officials close to Putin, prompting Democratic and Republican leaders to criticize the relatively restrained response. SOURCE
- March 20, 2018 – UK expels 23 Russian diplomats in connection to the Skripal case. A total of 80 people, including the diplomats’ families left Britain. Other EU member states expelled close to 40 Russian diplomats, Ukraine expelled 13. SOURCE
- March 26, 2018 – Trump orders the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats, including 12 people identified as intelligence officers, as well as the closure of the Russian Consulate in Seattle. In a statement, the White House says: “Today’s actions make the United States safer by reducing Russia’s ability to spy on Americans and to conduct covert operations that threaten America’s national security.” SOURCE
- April 6, 2018 – The Treasury Department imposes sanctions on 38 Russian individuals and companies, including seven Russian oligarchs and the companies they control, 17 government officials, a state-owned Russian weapons-trading company and its subsidiary, and a Russian bank. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says that the sanctions are a response to a number of “malign activities” by the Russian government, including the occupation of Crimea, assistance to the Assad regime in Syria, subversion of Western democracy, and malicious cyber activities. The sanctions prevent the Russian oligarchs from traveling to the United States or doing business with U.S. companies. Additionally, the sanctions prevent foreign individuals from doing business on their behalf. SOURCE
- April 20, 2018 – Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin meets with Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov to discuss the recent sanctions targeting several Russian oligarchs with ties to Putin, including Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. On April 23, the U.S. Treasury reveals a path for lifting sanctions against the large metals company Rusal should Deripaska divest from the company and its owner, the EN+ Group. SOURCE
- May 1, 2018 – he Trump administration amends its Russia sanctions program to allow aluminum giant Rusal to escape the blacklist, according to the Wall Street Journal. SOURCE
- May 14, 2018 – The EU has added five people to the sanction list for their involvement in the organisation of Russian presidential elections in illegally annexed Crimea and Sevastopol. Thereby these individuals actively supported and implemented policies that undermine the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. The sanctions include an asset freeze. SOURCE
- June 11, 2018 – Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated five Russian entities and three Russian individuals under Executive Order (E.O.) 13694, “Blocking the Property of Certain Persons Engaging in Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities.” As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property of the designated persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them. SOURCE
- June 18, 2018 – The European Council extended the restrictive measures in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia until 23 June 2019. The asset freeze continues. The sanctions include prohibitions on: imports of products originating in Crimea or Sevastopol into the EU; investment in Crimea or Sevastopol, meaning that no Europeans nor EU-based companies can buy real estate or entities in Crimea, finance Crimean companies or supply related services; tourism services in Crimea or Sevastopol, in particular, European cruise ships cannot call at ports in the Crimean peninsula, except in case of emergency; exports of certain goods and technologies to Crimean companies or for use in Crimea in the transport, telecommunications and energy sectors and related to the prospection, exploration and production of oil, gas and mineral resources. Technical assistance, brokering, construction or engineering services related to infrastructure in these sectors must not be provided either. SOURCE
- July 5, 2018 – The European Council prolonged economic sanctions targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy until 31 January 2019. The economic sanctions prolonged by this decision include: limiting access to EU primary and secondary capital markets for 5 major Russian majority state-owned financial institutions and their majority-owned subsidiaries established outside of the EU, as well as three major Russian energy and three defence companies; imposing an export and import ban on trade in arms; establishing an export ban for dual-use goods for military use or military end users in Russia; curtailing Russian access to certain sensitive technologies and services that can be used for oil production and exploration. In addition to these economic sanctions, several EU measures are also in place in response to the crisis in Ukraine including: targeted individual restrictive measures, namely a visa ban and an asset freeze, currently against 155 people and 38 entities until 15 September 2018; restrictive measures in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, limited to the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol, currently in place until 23 June 2019. SOURCE
- July 25, 2018 – In his written testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says, “I want to assure this committee that the United States does not, and will not, recognize the Kremlin’s purported annexation of Crimea … There will be no relief of Crimea-related sanctions until Russia returns control of the Crimean Peninsula to Ukraine.” SOURCE
- July 31, 2018 – The EU has added 6 companies to the Ukraine-related asset freeze list based on their involvement in the construction of the Kerch Bridge, connecting Russia to the Crimean peninsula. This brings the total number of parties listed by the EU for undermining the independence of Ukraine to 44 entities and 155 individuals. SOURCE
- August 8, 2018 – The United States has announced it will impose restrictions on the export of sensitive technology to Russia because of its use of a nerve agent in the attempted murder of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain. The new sanctions involve the export of a long list of equipment deemed to be sensitive on national security grounds, including gas turbine engines, integrated circuits, and calibration equipment used in avionics. A US official said that about half of US exports to Russia contained sensitive components. At the moment, such exports are considered on a case-by-case basis. After 22 August, there will be a “presumption of denial”, meaning that the default position will be for such exports to be banned. SOURCE
- August 21, 2018 – The United States imposed sanctions on two Russians, one Russian company and one Slovakian company for what Washington said were their actions to help another Russian company avoid sanctions over the country’s malicious cyber-related activities. The U.S. Treasury said in a statement that the sanctioned companies, Saint Petersburg-based Vela-Marine Ltd and Slovakia-based Lacno S.R.O., and the two individuals helped Divetechnoservices evade previously imposed sanctions. As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property of the designated persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them. SOURCE
- August 22, 2018 – US sanctions against two Russian shipping companies suspected of transferring petroleum products to North Korean vessels in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property of the designated persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them. SOURCE
- August 27, 2018 – sanctions related to Skripal case come into effect. SOURCE
- September 12, 2018 – President Trump has issued an Executive Order (EO) “Imposing Certain Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Interference in a United States Election,” effective September 12, 2018. The EO authorizes the imposition of sanctions on parties determined to have interfered in or undermined public confidence in United States elections, including through the unauthorized accessing of election and campaign infrastructure or the covert distribution of propaganda and disinformation. SOURCE
- September 13, 2018 – EU extends sanctions over action against Ukraine’s territorial integrity. 155 people and 44 entities are subject to an asset freeze and a travel ban because their actions undermined Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence. SOURCE