Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405

Facebook: Digby Parton

@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)

thedigbyblog at gmail
satniteflix at gmail
publius.gaius at gmail
tpostsully at gmail
Spockosbrain at gmail
Richardein at me.com


Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic

Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018 June 2018 July 2018 August 2018 September 2018 October 2018 November 2018 December 2018 January 2019


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


Saturday, April 07, 2018

About those sanctions

by digby

This piece by Robin Wright in the New Yorker about the latest sanctions against Russian oligarchs presents a more complex picture of what they mean than I've seen anywhere else:

On Friday, after months of internal deliberations and delays, the Trump Administration imposed tough sanctions on seven of Russia’s richest oligarchs—all of whom have ties to President Vladimir Putin—and seventeen top Kremlin officials. Many are major players in Russia’s security apparatus. Among those targeted is a young billionaire who married Putin’s daughter and an oligarch who has been linked to Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager indicted by the special counsel Robert Mueller. The new sanctions do not, however, target the Russian leader.
The announcement is the latest step in the Trump Administration’s gyrating and sometimes contradictory policy on Russia: overtures to Putin or boons to Russia’s foreign-policy goals one day, followed by punitive measures, including sanctions and the expulsion of sixty Russian intelligence agents, the next. Just this week, the President once again pondered warming up to Putin. “It’s a real possibility that I could have a good relationship. And remember this: getting along with Russia is a good thing,” Trump said on Tuesday, at a joint press conference with the leaders of three Baltic nations. “So, I think I could have a very good relationship with Russia and with President Putin. And if I did, that would be a great thing. And there’s also a possibility that that won’t happen. Who knows?”

On Wednesday, Trump also took a step that will effectively give Russia the military and political edge in Syria when he ordered the Pentagon to wind down the American military presence. The United States and Russia have backed rival forces during the seven-year civil war. The withdrawal of two thousand U.S. troops, now expected within the next four to six months, will clear the way for Russia and Iran to consolidate their hold on the country, which is the geostrategic center of the Middle East, and borders five U.S. allies, including Israel.
One of the most intriguing targets in the new sanctions is Kirill Shamalov, who married Putin’s daughter Katerina, in 2013. After the marriage, Shamalov rapidly “joined the ranks of the billionaire elite around Putin” in business deals with Russia’s energy sector, the Treasury Department’s statement said. Yet in January, Bloomberg reported that Putin’s daughter and Shamalov had actually split—at a whopping financial cost to Shamalov after he lost his position within Russia’s First Family.
The first daughters of Russia and the US sure do get a lot of perks. (Like this 30 million dollar state sponsored splurge on an "acrobatic rock and roll" center for Katerina's personal "sport.") This looks like a favor.
The timing of the Trump Administration’s decision is interesting because it comes nine months after Congress passed legislation—the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act—to impose sweeping sanctions on Moscow. Since it was veto-proof, Trump reluctantly signed it into law, in August—but criticized it as “seriously flawed.” In January, to meet a congressional deadline in the new law, the Treasury Department released a list of about two hundred Russian political élites and oligarchs who might be liable for sanctions. As was widely noted at the time, the U.S. list of ninety-six oligarchs simply replicated a list already published by Forbes magazine. The Administration waited until this month to issue sanctions—and then on only a fraction of the names on the list.

Another target of the new sanctions is Oleg Deripaska, a Putin adviser and billionaire who had ties to Manafort, now under investigation by Mueller. Deripaska figures prominently in Mueller’s inquiry, too. “Deripaska has said that he does not separate himself from the Russian state,” a Treasury communiqué reported. “He has also acknowledged possessing a Russian diplomatic passport, and claims to have represented the Russian government in other countries.” Deripaska has been investigated for money laundering and accused of threatening the lives of business rivals, illegally wiretapping a government official, and taking part in extortion and racketeering. “There are also allegations that Deripaska bribed a government official, ordered the murder of a businessman, and had links to a Russian organized crime group,” the Treasury Department said.

Viktor Vekselberg, a tycoon close to Putin who made a fortune in Russia’s energy sector and financial markets, is also on the list. His cousin, who runs the U.S. subsidiary of Vekselberg’s Renova Group, contributed a quarter-million dollars to Trump’s Inauguration fund, according to Mother Jones. The cousin, Andrew Intrater, also reportedly made a personal donation of thirty-five thousand dollars to a joint committee for Trump’s election and the Republican National Committee. In 2015, Vekselberg was at the Moscow dinner attended by the disgraced former national-security adviser Michael Flynn. In 2017, Vekselberg was in Washington for Trump’s Inauguration, the Washington Post reported. The details of Vekselberg’s connections to Trump, direct or indirect, were not outlined in the Treasury Department’s announcement.

The senior officials who have been sanctioned reach into the Kremlin’s inner circle. They include a prominent Putin aide; the Minister of Internal Affairs and General Police; the secretary of Russia’s Security Council; the head of the National Guards; a governor who previously headed Russia’s Special Operations Forces; and senior officials in Gazprom, Russia’s energy giant. The new sanctions also name a dozen companies owned by the oligarchs, a weapons company, and a bank.

The question is how much impact the new sanctions will have. The Treasury list was first released in January, giving the oligarchs four months of advance notice to move their billions, Russia experts told me.
That was convenient.
Putin shrugged off the list as meaningless when Treasury originally published it. “As they say, ‘a barking dog cannot hinder a caravan’s journey,’ ” he told the Tass news agency. He described it as an act generated more by domestic U.S. politics. “What’s the point of this? I don’t understand,” Putin said. “This is of course an unfriendly act. It complicates already complicated Russia-U.S. relations and harms international relations in general. Those who engage in this are basically engaged in their own domestic politics. They are trying to attack their elected President.”
It's so nice of him to defend President Trump. Why would he do that?

Well, maybe it's actually another favor:
The sanctions send a warning, but they may produce little change by either the financial or political élites anytime soon, Russia experts told me. Moscow could even benefit. Oligarchs not on the list may decide to pull their money out of the West for fear of facing sanctions down the road, and put it back in Russia. One of Putin’s greatest vulnerabilities is a weak and corrupt economy, which is about the size of Italy’s.
These sanctions are better than nothing but it appears they are less than meets the eye as far as American foreign policy is concerned.