The shakeup of members of the new Congress provides an opportunity for changing United States foreign policy. After two years of criticizing much of what the Trump administration has done, Congress has tools at its disposal to push back or alter course. On Russia, House Democrats are likely to pursue a much tougher course, writing new sanctions legislation to target foreign adventurism and interference. To be effective, however, they will need to keep in mind three broad issues of oligarchs, sovereign debt, and operational resources needed to underwrite their efforts.
To start, Democrats need to maintain perspective on what sanctions on Russian oligarchs can and cannot accomplish. The Trump administration already delivered a serious blow to Russian elites and their business interest when it sanctioned Oleg Deripaska and his corporations. The Treasury Department identified an extremely wealthy individual engaged in illicit and threatening conduct, believed to be close to Vladimir Putin, and imposed the toughest financial tools at its disposal. Thus, Deripaska has entered a tortured process to wind down control of those enterprises. He and his money have become toxic assets for other global companies, a status that other wealthy and influential Russians would like to avoid.
However, the treatment of Deripaska has not changed the calculus for Putin or his aggressive approach to the United States and his neighbors. The Minsk agreements are no closer to fulfillment and Russia has only increased aggression against Ukraine. Moscow still supports allies such as Bashar Assad. The lesson here is that while oligarch sanctions can inconvenience members of the Russian elite, their complaints about their treatment at the hands of the United States fall on deaf ears in the Kremlin. In their interests, Russians who did what they were told in order to operate lucrative businesses have neither the inclination nor the leverage to push back on the policies and priorities of the Kremlin.
Read the full article in The Hill.
More from CNAS
PodcastThe U.S. Withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, with Steven Pifer and Anna Wieslander
Steven Pifer and Anna Wieslander join Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend on the latest episode of Brussels Sprouts to discuss the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Open S...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Anna Wieslander
CommentaryConverging Chinese and Russian Disinformation Compounds Threat to Democracy
In recent weeks the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) propaganda and disinformation blitz around COVID-19 has drawn increasing attention, and with good reason. In addition to pr...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor & David Shullman
PodcastReflecting on Five Years in the U.S., with Finnish Amb. Kirsti Kauppi
Kirsti Kauppi joins Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend to discuss her time as Finland’s Ambassador to the United States, Finland’s response to COVID-19, and more. Amb. Kau...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Amb. Kirsti Kauppi
PodcastPutin’s 20 Years in Power, with Mike Carpenter
Mike Carpenter joins Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend to discuss lessons learned from Vladimir Putin’s time in office, how Putin views the United States, and more. Dr. C...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Mike Carpenter