July 31, 2018

Congress needs to be smarter on Russia sanctions

By ​Neil Bhatiya and Edoardo Saravalle

In the aftermath of the Helsinki summit, lawmakers are angry at the Trump administration and are turning to sanctions to hold the White House accountable for failing to fix America’s Russia problem. Congress must be careful, however, that its push for even more leverage does not create unintended consequences.

One year ago, President Trump reluctantly signed into law the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Motivated by the fear that President Trump might unilaterally lift sanctions on Moscow and let Vladimir Putin off-the-hook for his malign activities, the 2017 law gave Congress control over executive branch efforts to remove pressure on Russia. CAATSA codified existing Russia sanctions executive orders so the President could not simply rescind them. It created an onerous and unprecedented congressional oversight process that limited his ability to even weaken them; and it required the executive branch to impose even more sanctions on Moscow. Though it also contained other provisions, the overarching intent of the law was clear: the administration would have no choice but to ensure that Russia would face material costs for its international aggression and destabilization.

In implementation, the results have been less than Congress hoped for. In January, per the law’s requirements, the Treasury Department published a list of Russian oligarchs. The document, however, was widely derided for being merely a laundry list of wealthy Russians and Kremlin cronies rather than a targeted list of Putin’s most critical relationships.

In the past few weeks, the Treasury Department has signaled it could back away from sanctions on the Russian aluminum firm Rusal. The Treasury Department is arguing that, since oligarch Oleg Deripaska, the ultimate sanctions target, is removing himself from active control of the company, Rusal should not be isolated from the international financial system. Though such a policy would be in keeping with the traditional U.S. approach to removing sanctions, many policymakers have criticized this potential delisting as another example of soft-pedaling.


Read the Full Article at The Hill

  • Commentary
    • World Politics Review
    • July 7, 2020
    Why Stopping Environmental Crime Is a Matter of National Security

    Last week, the presidency of the Financial Action Task Force, the global intergovernmental standard-setter for combatting illicit financial threats, passed from China to Germa...

    By ​Neil Bhatiya

  • Commentary
    • The Washington Post
    • July 2, 2020
    The U.S.-China confrontation is not another Cold War. It’s something new.

    With U.S.-China relations in free fall, the Trump administration’s chief arms control negotiator recently proclaimed that "we know how to win these races and we know how to sp...

    By Richard Fontaine & Ely Ratner

  • Video
    • June 24, 2020
    The Pitch: A Competition of New Ideas

    On June 17, 2020, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) hosted its premier event to elevate emerging and diverse voices in national security. Sixteen applicants made t...

    By Richard Fontaine, Michèle Flournoy, Michael J. Zak, Loren DeJonge Schulman, Shai Korman, Carrie Cordero, Kristine Lee, David Zikusoka & Cole Stevens

  • Video
    • June 17, 2020
    Richard Fontaine and Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian Discuss America and the Post-Pandemic World

    At the launch of the CNAS 2020 National Security Conference, CNAS CEO Richard Fontaine and Axios China Reporter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian discussed challenges and opportunities...

    By Richard Fontaine & Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia