Report: Trump administration set to sanction Russian elite on Fri
MOSCOW, Apr 6 (PRIME) -- The U.S. President Donald Trump administration is set to sanction some of Russia’s ruling elite on Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday, citing people familiar with the planned announcement.
The “oligarch” sanctions were planned before the nerve-agent attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter in the U.K. last month, but the new measures are likely to fuel rising diplomatic tensions between the West and Moscow.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other top officials have signaled since January that the administration would levy new sanctions based on a confidential list of Russian oligarchs, corrupt politicians and the ruling elite close to President Vladimir Putin that was drafted earlier this year by U.S. officials.
“This extensive report…is being used to inform future targeted sanctions,” Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, told the Atlantic Council last month. Sanctions, Mr. Mnuchin assured lawmakers in early March, would be rolled out within weeks.
The 2017 sanctions law was passed as U.S.-Russian relations soured after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election, along with disputes over Ukraine and Syria.
Lawmakers see the administration’s use of the new sanctions authority as a test of its willingness to counter Moscow at a time when federal investigators probe the Russian election interference and any possible ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow. President Donald Trump has denied any collusion and Russia has denied interfering in the election.
The new sanctions follow actions last month targeting the Russian individuals and entities directly linked to the election-meddling efforts by both federal investigators and senior administration officials.
Still, lawmakers criticized the administration when it failed to immediately levy sanctions against those individuals on its oligarch list as part of a broader effort to pressure the Kremlin. The new sanctions will be watched for how closely they target allies of Mr. Putin and for how aggressively the administration details the alleged misdeeds of those individuals it is blacklisting.
Analysts say the administration will likely target only a limited number of individuals on the confidential list of Russians it prepared for Congress, reserving the ability to add more in the future, should Moscow continue its election meddling and other actions U.S. officials say threaten American interests.
The prospect of the oligarch sanctions rattled Russia’s elite, prompting some to move their assets out of reach of U.S. and Western authorities, U.S. and European officials said. And while it temporarily spooked investors in Russian markets, economists say it has had little visible effect on Russia’s economy so far.
Lawmakers previously had criticized the administration for preparing a separate public list of Russian oligarchs that drew heavily on publicly available data and international press, including Forbes. But lawmakers involved in pushing the 2017 law praised the confidential list as substantive targets that could increase the political pressure on Mr. Putin.
Ms. Mandelker and other senior officials have said the administration will continue to increase pressure on Moscow. “We are very focused on pressuring Russia for its continued efforts to destabilize Ukraine, occupy Crimea, meddle in elections, as well as for its endemic corruption and human-rights abuses,” she said last month.
Another senior national-security official said the administration is preparing a series of actions to counter Russian aggression, some of which would be publicized, while others would be covert.
“There will be more to come, and we’re going to continue to employ our resources to combat malicious Russian activity and respond to nefarious attacks,” the official said.