Here are sanctions the U.S. hasn’t (yet) placed on Russia
Biden has more sanctions in his toolbox
This may come as a surprise after a wave of sudden and severe international sanctions deepened Russia’s isolation from international trade, finance, technology and culture. But there are still plenty of targets for economic or diplomatic retaliation for Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
“We’re not done,” Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday. “There is more on the way from the [Group of Seven] and our EU partners as early as this week if President [Vladimir] Putin does not end his vicious war.”
Some of the ideas floating around Capitol Hill and the White House include:
- Hindering Russia’s ability to use cryptocurrencies.
- Suspending or ending Moscow’s World Trade Organization membership.
- Broadening restrictions on investments in Putin’s economy.
Russia sags under the weight of 5,532 sanctions — 2,778 imposed since Putin launched the invasion in late February. That makes it the most sanctioned nation in the world, ahead of Iran with 3,616, according to Castellum.ai, a global database that tracks sanctions. (In a sign of just how badly Moscow’s fortunes have changed, the country that imposed the most punitive measures since the late-February onslaught was … Switzerland!)
As my colleague Paul Sonne chronicles here, it’s been a little like watching “an economic and cultural iron curtain” descend on Russia, “reversing decades of integration with western economies and threatening to isolate Russians to an extent unseen since the Soviet era.”
Contemplating the Western actions and repressive measures Putin has taken, it seems hard to believe there would be much ammunition left in the sanctions arsenal.
To get a sense of the options, The Daily 202 spoke with Dan Fried, a retired career diplomat who crafted punitive measures against Moscow as State Department Coordinator for Sanctions Policy when Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014. Dan is now at the Atlantic Council.
Washington could impose a ban on investment in Russia’s energy sector by denying investors access to U.S. financial markets, Fried said. Those would be “secondary sanctions” that go after non-U.S. individuals and entities doing business with a targeted country.
While Biden banned Americans from investing in Russian energy directly, or in foreign funds that invest in Russian energy, a senior administration official who briefed reporters Tuesday on the condition of anonymity did not sound eager to pull the secondary sanctions trigger.
“Not all countries are in the same circumstance, and we recognize that,” the official said. “They’re going to have to make their own evaluation.”
There’s another option under consideration in Congress: Suspending Russia’s membership in the World Trade Organization, or kicking it out entirely. The WTO’s embrace of Moscow has helped attract foreign investment and integrate its economy with the West.
“Letting Russia into the WTO was a function of our earlier hopes of inviting Russia to join the rest of the world, ” Fried said. The message to Putin would be “you want to go back to Soviet times? Fine, we’re going all the way.”
The United States could also deepen sanctions on Russian companies, railways, shipping firms and insurance, though “you would need some carve-outs,” exceptions on humanitarian grounds, for example, Fried said.
“Watch for unintended consequences,” he added. “If it boomerangs, [the Treasury Department] can always do licenses,” which would act as individual exceptions for affected companies.
The United States could also dissuade investors in Europe or elsewhere from jumping into Russia’s stock market when (if?) it reopens to snap up assets on the cheap. Or Washington could sanction Russia’s entire stock market, freezing investments.
“Putin will probably be happy with that. He’s driving the Russian economy back to Soviet times. That’s not a reason we should refrain from it — we ought to be sharpening his choice,” Fried said. “Remember the collapse of the USSR? It won’t go any better for you this time.”
Finally, Fried emphasized the importance of improving transatlantic cooperation on enforcing sanctions.
The European Union “doesn’t have a great sanctions-enforcement mechanism” and leaves the process to individual states, with “uneven results,” he said. What’s needed is “a real-time consultative process with the Europeans to make sure that we are spotting sanctions evasion.”
Fried praised the Justice Department’s “KleptoCapture” task force to enforce the sanctions, notably on Russian oligarchs thought to have Putin’s ear. It should “reach out to those Russian investigative journalists and others … have them help you run down” their assets, he said.
Biden has made clear he wants to minimize the economic pain at home. And any further imposition of sanctions will also take into account the potential reaction from European allies who cultivated ties with Russia for decades but have thus far have shown a willingness to counter Putin.
The Russian president is not totally isolated: Beijing has not joined in punishing Moscow. But China can only partially make up for the U.S.-led sanctions regime. And, so far, Beijing’s public line has been to blame America for the war but has neither helped nor hindered the global economic retaliation.
Lawmakers finalize $1.5 trillion spending package
- “Revive earmarks for the first time since Congress banned the practice more than a decade ago”
- “Substantially boost funding for the military and nearly every non-defense agency, growing domestic spending to $730 billion, an almost 7 percent increase”
- “Deliver nearly $14 billion in emergency funding to help Ukraine, including $3 billion for U.S. forces and $3.5 billion for military equipment to Ukraine, plus more $4 billion for U.S. humanitarian efforts”
Lawmakers have also agreed to include reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in their omnibus spending package, Amy B Wang reports.
Ukraine demands cease-fire for urgent repairs at Chernobyl plant
“Ukraine’s closed Chernobyl nuclear power plant has been disconnected from the nation’s power grid by Russian forces,” Adela Suliman and David L. Stern report. Ukraine warned that there could be a radiation leak if the electricity outage continued.
4.3 million people quit their jobs in January
The number is down slightly compared to December, “but still in record high territory in yet another sign that workers continue to have the upper hand in a tight labor market,” Abha Bhattarai reports.
House panel alerts Justice Department to “potentially criminal conduct” from Amazon and senior execs
“The referral is a significant escalation of lawmakers’ years-long questioning of statements Amazon executives made during their 16-month investigation into competition in digital markets that concluded in 2020,” John Wagner and Cat Zakrzewski report.
The allegations: Lawmakers “accuse Amazon of engaging in a ‘pattern and practice’ of misleading conduct that appeared designed to ‘influence, obstruct, or impede’ the committee.”
Lunchtime reads from The Post
Repeated police misconduct is costing us billions
A billion-dollar issue: “The Post collected data on nearly 40,000 payments at 25 of the nation’s largest police and sheriff’s departments within the past decade, documenting more than $3.2 billion spent to settle claims.”
The cost of repeat allegations: “Officers whose conduct was at issue in more than one payment accounted for more than $1.5 billion, or nearly half of the money spent by the departments to resolve allegations.”
- “More than 1,200 officers in the departments surveyed had been the subject of at least five payments. More than 200 had 10 or more.”
Redlining ended 50 years ago, but 45 million Americans are still breathing dirtier air because of it
A landmark study released Wednesday by the Environmental Science and Technology Letters found that “compared with White people, Black and Latino Americans live with more smog and fine particulate matter from cars, trucks, buses, coal plants and other nearby industrial sources in areas that were redlined,” Darryl Fears reports.
How we got here: “Throughout redlining’s history, local zoning officials worked with businesses to place polluting operations such as industrial plants, major roadways and shipping ports in and around neighborhoods that the federal government marginalized.”
How Washington arrived at the Russian oil ban in 100 hours
“It was the only one of the Ukrainian president’s major asks that Congress could deliver. So lawmakers kept pressing — and one chamber pushed a vote.”
All 50 states have announced they will drop mask mandates
Analysis: Biden’s calculus in asking for painful sacrifices from Americans for Ukraine
As Biden announced a ban on Russian oil Tuesday, he issued his most expansive warning yet that Americans would pay the price for the decision — but argued that it would be “worth the cost in the name of supporting a fledgling democracy,” Matt Viser explains.
Viser reviews how exactly Biden has asked the nation to make sacrifices “for a country that most Americans can’t pinpoint on a map and has a capital that many still can’t determine how to pronounce.”
Saudi, UAE leaders decline calls with Biden
What the Saudis want: “More support for their intervention in Yemen’s civil war, help with their own civilian nuclear program as Iran’s moves ahead, and legal immunity for Prince Mohammed in the U.S.”
What the Emiratis want: They share “Saudi concerns about the restrained U.S. response to recent missile strikes by Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen against the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia.” (Both governments are also worried about the revival of the Iran nuclear deal.)
Senate Dems postpone vote on Biden’s pick to lead ICE over abuse allegations
One of the senators who requested the delay “cited a sworn affidavit from a police officer who interviewed [Ed] Gonzalez’s wife and alleged the nominee became ‘physical or violent with Mrs. Gonzalez’ because of an extramarital romantic relationship,” Politico’s Marianne LeVine and Burgess Everett report.
Biden calls for legislation to help sick veterans who served near burn pits
Currently, veterans “have to prove there is a direct connection between their cancer and the burn pit chemicals, a threshold that can at times be difficult to meet,” Seung Min Kim and Matt Viser explain.
The proposal: New legislation would “instead declare up to a dozen ailments as presumptive conditions,” meaning veterans who can prove they served at a particular place and time and that they have been diagnosed with one of the ailments would automatically receive federal coverage and benefits.
Russian oil exports, visualized
Thomas Friedman: Putin has no good way out, and that really scares me
The risk: “In the coming weeks it will become more and more obvious that our biggest problem with Putin in Ukraine is that he will refuse to lose early and small, and the only other outcome is that he will lose big and late. But because this is solely his war and he cannot admit defeat, he could keep doubling down in Ukraine until … until he contemplates using a nuclear weapon.”
Why is defeat Putin’s only option?: “Because the easy, low-cost invasion he envisioned and the welcome party from Ukrainians he imagined were total fantasies — and everything flows from that.”
Rep. Ted Budd (Trump’s man in North Carolina) is struggling to gain traction in his senate race
“Budd, the congressman Trump unexpectedly endorsed last summer, has fallen in recent polling and lagged in fundraising, leaving him chasing the front-runner, former Gov. Pat McCrory,” Politico‘s Natalie Allison reports.
A crowded MAGA field: “The presence of former Rep. Mark Walker in the primary — who is competing with Budd for the most conservative, pro-Trump voters — is further complicating Budd’s efforts with just over two months to go until the state’s May primary.”
Trump’s plan: Get Walker out of the race. The former president has “sought to convince Walker to bow out of the race by dangling a House endorsement in an attempt to clear the field.”
At 2 p.m., Biden and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will meet with business leaders about the semiconductor chips manufacturing bill.
Biden will speak at the Senate Democrats’ retreat at 6:15 p.m. at Howard University.
Late night takes on gas prices
Also, Fallon’s response to McDonald’s announcing it will shutter stores in Russia:
Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.