Just the Facts

Five Facts on the U.S. Imposing Sanctions on Russia to Punish the Attempted Murder of an ex-Spy

By No Labels
August 9, 2018 | Blog

On Wednesday the U.S. State Department announced it would impose strict sanctions on Russia as punishment for the attempted murder in the United Kingdom of former Russian intelligence agent, Sergei Skripal. Here are five facts on the most recent round of U.S. sanctions on Russia.

The new sanctions are in response to Russia’s use of a nerve agent in an attempt to kill a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter

In March, the two became seriously ill after being exposed to a Soviet poison called Novichok near their home in Salisbury, England. While their poisoning was not fatal, British civilian Dawn Sturgess passed away after inadvertently being exposed to the nerve agent weeks later. While Moscow denies responsibility for the attack, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert stated they had determined that Russia “has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law.”

The newest sanctions on Russia will be imposed later this month and will roll out in two tranches

The first tranche is generally considered to be less severe and targets U.S. exports of national security related goods. Many of these items, however, have already been banned through previous action. The second set of sanctions will be a more direct blow to Moscow.  They will be activated after 90 days if Russia fails to downgrade their usage of chemical weapons and permits the United Nations to conduct on-site inspections of chemical facilities. Officials in Washington have mentioned this round of sanction will significantly strain U.S.- Russia relations, cut off many of their key exports and imports, and prohibit the Russian Federation’s airline, Aeroflot, from flying into the United States.

The Russian Embassy in Washinton, D.C. responded to these sanctions in a statement calling them “draconian”

The embassy continues to deny Russian involvement in the poisoning, accusing the Trump administration of “far-fetched accusations” and asking for proof of their participation in the crime. The embassy said that the “American side refused to answer [their] follow-up questions, claiming that the information is classified…We grew accustomed to not hearing any facts or evidence.” Additionally, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman called the sanctions another American attempt to “demonize Russia.” President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov also stated that the restrictions violate international law and undermine the diplomatic progress made between the two countries last month.

The sanctions have already had an effect on the Russian economy

The Russian stock market fell today and the value of the ruble, Russia’s currency, has plummeted, hitting a two-year low. The biggest projected impact from the first round of sanctions is from a “ban on granting licenses to export-sensitive national security goods to Russia,” which include digital devices and aviation equipment. This measure could potentially cause Russia to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in future exports. The second tranche of sanctions would halt virtually all trade between the U.S. and Russia. Russia’s Minister of Finance, Anton Siluanov, struck a defiant tone in responding to the sanctions, stating, “The Russian economy … in recent years has become much more resilient to external effects.”

U.S. sanctions against Russia could get even more extreme with the introduction of the bipartisan “sanctions bill from hell” in the Senate

S.3336, which was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and co-sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), calls on President Trump to widen the scope of the sanctions to include almost all Russian energy projects and to prohibit Western companies from any involvement in the country. The legislation would also increase measures to protect against cybercrime and would seek to require a two-thirds majority in the Senate for the U.S. to leave NATO.

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