The Biden administration is expected to impose new sanctions on Russia as soon as this week
U.S. sanctions may not persuade Russia to abandon alleged election interference and cyberattacks in the short term, but they will demonstrate Washington’s willingness to hold the Kremlin accountable for its malicious actions, analysts say.
President Joe Biden has promised that Russian President Vladimir Putin will “pay” for his actions. New sanctions are expected to be imposed as soon as this week, which could range from freezing U.S. assets of Russians to limiting Moscow’s ability to issue sovereign debt.
Russia denies interfering in U.S. elections and orchestrating a cyberattack using SolarWinds Corp software to penetrate government networks.
The Kremlin also denies reports that it offered Taliban fighters a reward for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Although the presidents of the two countries quickly agreed to extend the START III treaty, Biden took a much tougher stance on Putin than his predecessor, Donald Trump. The two leaders have made no secret of their differences.
Last week, Biden responded affirmatively to a reporter’s question about whether he thought Putin was a “murderer. The Russian leader responded with the childish tease “what you call yourself is what you call yourself.
The sanctions are unlikely to serve as a deterrent for Russia, analysts said, and the American public needs to be strengthened to counter disinformation campaigns such as the one Moscow has been conducting to influence the 2020 election, according to intelligence reports.
Russia has not been particularly careful to hide its attempts to influence the election, suggesting that such efforts are already a routine part of life, notes Andrew Weiss of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“This is a long-term problem for Western societies, and we should not expect the administration to magically solve it,” he said. Weiss said Washington wanted to show that it was watching this activity and intended to publicize it.
The former U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also notes that while sanctions may not change Moscow’s behavior in the short term, he believes it is useful to draw clear lines of impermissibility.
“Their policy on Russia is designed to discourage Russia from taking risks, to highlight small areas where there are opportunities for cooperation, and to demonstrate through concrete and timely responses that Russia’s behavior will never be without consequences,” the source said. – That was not the case under the Trump administration.”
Biden has the following sanctions tools in his arsenal:
– Executive Order 13848, which allows the government to freeze the assets in U.S. jurisdiction of any foreign person or entity found to have directly or indirectly interfered in a U.S. election;
– Executive Orders 13757 and 13694, allowing the assets of individuals involved in cyber activities from abroad that pose a threat to national security, foreign policy, the economy, or the financial stability of the United States to be frozen;
– Executive Order 13818, implementing the provisions of the Magnitsky Act and allowing Washington to impose visa and financial sanctions on foreigners who violate human rights or engage in corruption;
– The Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Military Prohibition Act of 1991, which, among other things, allows the president to prohibit U.S. banks from lending money to countries that have used chemical weapons.
After the British government accused Russia of using the nerve agent Novichok in the assassination attempt on former spy Sergei Skripal,
Trump, under pressure from Congress, banned U.S. banks from participating in the primary market for non-ruble Russian sovereign debt.
Biden could have gone further, extending the restrictions to ruble debt or to the secondary market, though that would have been a serious step.
The Kremlin accused the British intelligence services of staging the Skripal attack in order to fuel anti-Russian hysteria.
An anonymous congressional source noted that sanctions are generally not very effective and that restrictions on Russia’s sovereign debt are unlikely to have much impact “on Putin’s calculations about the use of poisonous substances.”
But Dan Fried, who previously held high diplomatic posts in Europe, is convinced that Putin “is rational within his own frame of reference and knows how to calculate risks and benefits.”
“If he sees a strong and organized reaction from the West, he will factor that into his calculations,” Fried believes. – We know from Soviet history that prolonged pressure combined with internal stagnation of a political and economic nature can lead to a strategic reassessment on the part of the Russian leadership.”