New economic turn: US senators blackmailing Putin by tightening sanctions

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

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Senators are trying to make the Kremlin understand that if it does not join the anti-terrorist coalition against ISIS, does not stop providing military support to Bashar Assad regime and does not implement the Minsk agreements, Washington will be forced to extend sanctions against important sectors of Russian economy
23:17, 6 June 2017

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On Wednesday, May 31, two US senators - Republican Mike Crapo from Idaho and Democrat Sherrod Brown from Ohio proposed a plan to tighten anti-Russian sanctions. As the US media reports, the text of their bill has not yet been made public, but new sanctions will be extended to key sectors of the Russian economy: mining, metallurgy and rail transportation. According to the senators, despite the current sanctions, Russia continues to be a hostile force capable of deploying its troops outside its territory, carrying out cyber attacks and espionage. Crapo and Brown are convinced that Russia is threatening the interests of the US and with its actions hinders to build productive relations with its allies.

Senators blackmail the Kremlin

Senators, with the help of their bill, are trying to make the Kremlin understand that if, after meeting with US President Donald Trump, the Kremlin does not join the anti-terrorist coalition against ISIS, does not stop providing military support to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and does not implement the Minsk agreements, Washington will be forced to extend sanctions to the vital important sectors of the Russian economy. So far, the US is looking to find common ground with Russia, before President Donald Trump decides to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. This is evidenced by the recent visit of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Moscow and his talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as the conversation between Donald Trump and Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in the White House. Republicans are trying to persuade Russia to join the constructive dialogue without resorting to confrontation. Senator-Republican Bob Corker believes that the movement towards stricter anti-Russian sanctions will begin after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will let know about it. In his opinion, the Secretary of State still does not inform about the serious changes in Russia's position on Syria.

If the Kremlin refuses to agree with the White House, the senators have a prepared legislative framework for tightening sanctions. The "Crapo-Brown" plan is not the first initiative of US lawmakers to tighten the policy of restraining Russia. In 2016, Senator Democrat Eliot Engel drafted the bill H.R.5094 on assisting Ukraine in restoring its territorial integrity and counteracting Russian aggression. According to the document, depending on the situation, it is provided the preservation of anti-Russian sanctions and the provision of lethal weapons to Ukraine. 40 congressmen from the Democratic and Republican parties participated in developing of this document. In January this year, 10 US senators, including Republican John McCain and Democrat Ben Cardin, drafted the "Act of 2017 on Countering Russia's Hostile Behavior," according to which it was proposed to switch to general economic sanctions in response to cyber attacks against the US.

According to US law, even if the president refuses to sign the bill, it can get the status of a federal law and take effect if 2/3 of the US Congress members vote in favor. Senators make it clear to the Russian leadership that tightening sanctions is inevitable if Russia's foreign policy does not return to a constructive course.

Threat to the Russian economy

The current US sanctions against Russia limit the attraction of American banks’ funding to Russian oil and gas companies, as well as the supply of equipment and technologies for working on the deep-water shelf. Senators Mike Crapo and Sherrod Brown not by accident offered to extend sanctions on mining, metallurgy and the railway industry. These are the most profitable and export-oriented segments of the Russian economy. The share of oil, oil products and natural gas in Russian exports is 62%, and metals and metallurgical products - 10%. In 2016, Russia's revenues from the sale of oil and gas amounted to 4.83 trillion rubles (37.4% of all revenues).

The USA is the 6th foreign economic partner of Russia. If you pay attention to the structure of Russian exports to the US in January-August 2016, then among the first positions are mineral products (33.5%), metals and metal products (30.7%). In 2016, Russia supplied to the US 13.9 million barrels of crude oil and 144.5 million barrels of oil products (crude oils, gasoline, additives to gasoline, etc.). The US is the largest buyer of Russian aluminum. For 8 months of 2016, Russia supplied to American enterprises 25.6% of aluminum, which was shipped for export. Last year, Russian metallurgical plants shipped more than 1.1 million tons of semi-finished steel products to the USA. In the field of railway transport, the Russian United Railcar Company cooperates with the American Wabtec Corporation in the production of trolleys for freight cars. In 2015, the companies concluded a 10-year contract for the supply of parts for freight cars manufactured in accordance with American technology to the USA.

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If the US tightens the anti-Russian sanctions, the EU countries may follow their example. President of EU Council Donald Tusk supports the extension of anti-Russian sanctions until Russia fulfills the Minsk agreements. A similar position is held by the French President Emmanuel Macron - the head of leading country of the European Union, as well as Germany. He said that he intends to tighten anti-Russian sanctions if necessary. If EU countries impose sanctions on the same sectors proposed by US senators, then the Russian economy will suffer significant losses. The EU countries are the main market for Russian natural gas. Russia supplies over 70% of oil to the European market. Russian enterprises ship 40% of exported iron ore to European countries, 45% of thermal coal, and 12% of coking coal. Joint ventures of German Siemens company and the Russian Ural locomotives company, with a package of investments of 200 million euros in the traction industry for the Russian Railways, where 4,000 Russians work are also located on the territory of the Russian Federation.

Reconciling American public

Senators Mike Crapo and Sherrod Brown not by accident started talking about their bill in advance, before its promulgation. With the help of it, US lawmakers want to lower the degree of criticism of the Donald Trump’s Republican team and weaken the version about the involvement of the current government in relations with Russia, which could interfere in the election campaign in the United States. Supporters of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama suspect Donald Trump that he purposely tries to prevent the investigation of the question of Russia's interference in the presidential elections. The dismissal of FBI director, James Comey, who participated in the investigation and frequent meetings of US officials with Russian diplomats suggest that the Kremlin could put their stake on Donald Trump as an acceptable candidate. Fuel to the fire was poured by criticism of Donald Trump for the fact that he announced the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, which was signed by its predecessor Barack Obama in 2015.

The bill of senators Mike Crapo and Sherrod Brown symbolizes the common position of Democrats and Republicans regarding the need to tighten pressure on Russia to force its leadership to peace in Ukraine and Syria. The bill makes it clear to the American public that if an agreement with Vladimir Putin does not work out, then the sanctions will be tightened. This is the style of American foreign policy under any president, regardless of party affiliation. First, we need to use every opportunity to convince the opponent to agree with the conditions of the United States, and after all diplomatic methods will be exhausted, we will resort to sanctions or military force. So far, the Republicans are trying to prove that they are more successful in diplomacy than their rival democrats.

Persuasion of Russia to move from aggression to constructive dialogue is a kind of test for the administration of Donald Trump. If the Kremlin fails to agree, then the Republicans will apply even more strong restrictive measures against Russia than Barack Obama's team. The current anti-Russian sanctions are ineffective. The continuing aggression of Russia in Ukraine and interference in the civil war in Syria on the side of Bashar Assad confirm this.

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