In retaliation for alleged interference in the 2020 election and the SolarWinds hack – for which no evidence was provided to the public to substantiate the blame being placed on Russia – the Biden administration announced yesterday that new sanctions would be enacted against Russia, along with the expulsion of 10 diplomats. According to the White House release announcing the sanctions:
Treasury issued a directive that prohibits U.S. financial institutions from participation in the primary market for ruble or non-ruble denominated bonds issued after June 14, 2021 by the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, the National Wealth Fund of the Russian Federation, or the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation; and lending ruble or non-ruble denominated funds to the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, the National Wealth Fund of the Russian Federation, or the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation. This directive provides authority for the U.S. government to expand sovereign debt sanctions on Russia as appropriate.
A report by Axios provided more details:
-The package of sanctions will bar U.S. banks from buying Russian government bonds directly from the the country’s central bank, sovereign wealth fund and ministry of finance beginning June 14, complicating Russia’s ability to raise money in international capital markets.
-Six Russian technology companies will be sanctioned for providing support for Russian intelligence’s cyber activities, while 32 entities and individuals will be designated for their role in the Kremlin’s election interference campaign.
-Ten intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover in the U.S. will be expelled.
-In partnership with the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada, the U.S. will also sanction eight individuals and entities for their role in Russia’s ongoing occupation of Crimea.
It appears that U.S. banks and other investors can still buy Russian bonds in the secondary market.
The administration emphasized that these sanctions were not connected to charges of Russians paying bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan – a report that was never substantiated and was even undermined by further reporting. The administration said the Bountygate claims would be dealt with through diplomatic and military channels.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova made the following comments in response to the latest move by Washington, as reported by Sputnik News:
“Such a course, as has been repeatedly stressed, does not serve the interests of the people of the world’s two leading nuclear powers, which bear historical responsibility for the fate of the world,” the spokeswoman said.
“In his telephone conversation with the Russian president, Joe Biden expressed interest in the normalization of Russia-US relations. But the actions of his administration [today] testify otherwise,” Zakharova added.
US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan has been summoned for what are expected to be “difficult” talks, Zakharova said.
She also indicated that US actions Thursday have cast doubt on the practicability of the use of the dollar and the reliability of Western-controlled payment systems.
Some have observed that these punitive measures coming days after the offer of a summit from Biden makes it look like the offer was not sincere and the Biden administration actually hoped it would not be accepted.
Others have raised doubts that members of the administration would allow Putin to observe in person how compromised Biden is in terms of his cognitive ability.
Meanwhile, representatives of the Ukrainian government continue to talk tough. The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, stated on Thursday that in order to maintain its national security Ukraine would have to either obtain NATO membership in the near future or it would consider acquiring nuclear weapons:
“Ukraine has no other choice: either we are part of an alliance such as NATO and are doing our part to make this Europe stronger, or we have the only option – to arm by ourselves, and maybe think about nuclear status again. How else can we guarantee our defense?” Melnyk added.
The day before that, Leonid Kravchuk – the first president of post-Soviet Ukraine and the representative of the country for the Trilateral Contact Group consisting of Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE – stated, in the context of citing support from the west in any conflict with an aggressive Russia:
“A citizen, a patriot, and a warrior are all part of one. And today I see how people’s awareness is rising in many regions, where people are starting to say that we need to be ready for anything. By saying so, I want to convey to Russia so that they realize, so that the Kremlin realizes, that it will be no parade. If they dare, if they turn insane and go to war against Ukraine, this will mark the start of a large-scale conflict that could escalate into World War 3. It will be no easy movement, as they experienced in Crimea.”
Shout out to Rick Rozoff of Stop NATO who has been monitoring the tensions between Russia and Ukraine. It was through his informative blog that I found out about the above two statements from the Ukrainian ambassador and Kravchuk, respectively.