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What kinds of measures should Congress prioritize in new Russia #sanctions? I dug into this issue with my Carnegie colleague @JarrettBlanc (who helped oversee the Iran deal, including sanctions, under Obama). carnegieendowment.org/2019/04/03/u.s… 1/
Anger and distrust toward Russia crosses party lines in Washington. Hardly anyone endorses Trump’s desire “to get along” w Russia or skepticism about Kremlin actions in 2016. Additional sanctions on Russia make abundant sense to us, if only to box in the Trump administration. 2/
2 pieces of bipartisan legislation, DASKA & DETER, are now in front of the Senate. The recent pattern has been that Congress only moves in reaction to Trump/Russia developments or damaging press accounts so new sanctions are probably on hold until a trigger materializes 3/
That creates a window for Congress to work on aligning any new sanctions with a comprehensive US policy on Russia, deconflicting overlapping sanctions regimes targeting Russia, refocusing our messaging, and supporting closer coordination with US allies. 4/
Congress also needs an extensive conversation about the potential 2nd- and 3rd-order effects of an increasingly unilateral U.S. approach on important alliance relationships with European and Asian partners. 5/
US/EU sanctions since 2014 have clearly damaged the Russian economy. Yet good fortune & a textbook policy response blunted some of their effects. Higher oil prices are stimulating modest economic growth. Hard currency reserves of ≈$500 billion are back at pre–crisis levels. 6/
The weak ruble, once touted by Western policymakers as a sign of the effectiveness of Western sanctions, turned out to be one of the regime’s most effective tools to manage the macroeconomic effect of sanctions. 7/
The impact of simply levying more sanctions vs Kremlin insiders is also unclear. Most have been under sanctions for 5+ years, and the most important players are often the hardest to target. Either way, few tycoons hold much sway over Putin on key national security matters. 8/
Bottom line, we see little evidence that the sanctions program to date has significantly altered the Kremlin’s risk appetite. Indeed, since 2015 the Kremlin has mounted a devil-may-care global campaign of malign activities. 9/
It’s also clear that US-EU unity on sanctions has generally exceeded expectations. But after 2+ years of Trump-generated tensions over climate change, Iran, trade, and NATO, it would be a mistake to take continued EU support for the sanctions regime for granted. 10/
By passing the CAATSA sanctions bill in mid-2017, Congress widened the gap with Europe on how to respond to Russian adventurism and doubled down on the theory that costs imposed on regime insiders will result in pressure from within to prompt the Kremlin to change its policy. 11/
The Trump administration’s bungled attempt in 2018 to target Oleg Deripaska and Rusal showed that EU partners could not be forced into accepting US secondary sanctions that threatened key manufacturing sectors and workers’ livelihoods. 12/
Early, frank communication w the EU could have prevented this embarrassing reversal. But such disputes are becoming more likely amid bipartisan support for retaliating against Russian interference in the 2016 election and wresting control over Russia policy away from Trump. 13/
Unfortunately, the sanctions debate hasn’t prioritized greater transparency for beneficial ownership or tougher restrictions on illicit flows/money laundering. Such steps would make our jurisdiction far less welcoming for foreign bad actors and make it easier to target them 14/
We also see an opening for Congress to take a more active role in coordinating with allies and partners prior to drafting and adopting legislation. Among other benefits, consultation would highlight areas where the United States lags, starting with beneficial ownership.15/
Congress needs to work directly with foreign gov’ts to ensure that any new sanctions are implemented in a coordinated and multilateral manner. Congress should not run the risk of another Rusal-style disagreement, and Congress cannot depend on the administration to avoid it. END/
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