The US Treasury Department’s decision not to slap sanctions on Russian oligarchs and officials, some with ties to the Kremlin, is a missed opportunity to check Russian aggression, according to the Atlantic Council’s Daniel Fried.
“I think the [Trump] administration missed an opportunity [on January 29] to extend the use of sanctions to Russia’s aggressive behavior,” Fried, a distinguished fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative and Eurasia Center, and formerly the State Department’s coordinator on sanctions policy, said in a phone briefing hosted by the Council on January 30.
Section 241 of the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) mandates the administration to submit to Congress within 180 days “identification of the most significant senior foreign political figures and oligarchs in the Russian Federation, as determined by their closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth.”
Fried said Treasury’s list of Russians was “so broad and so inclusive and so indiscriminatory that it undercut the clear purpose of Section 241, which was not to go after all rich Russians or corrupt rich Russians, but to go after the Putin power structure.”
While Putin is not on the list, senior Russian officials, including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak, and several of Putin’s aides are listed.
While Treasury said the names on its list “were selected based on objective criteria drawn from publically available sources,” Fried noted that it appeared to be close to a “cut-and-paste job” from Forbes’ list of rich and influential Russians.
“For reasons that I cannot understand, [the administration] chose another course,” he said.
As it was reported earlier State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the Trump administration had told Congress there was no need to impose sanctions since the legislation was already deterring Russian defense sales.
Citing long time frames associated with major defense deals, Nauert said it was better to wait to impose those sanctions.
“From that perspective, if the law is working, sanctions on specific entities or individuals will not need to be imposed because the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent,” she said in a statement.