February 15, 2018

Want to really hit Russia’s oligarchs? Shine a light on their money

By ​Neil Bhatiya

On Tuesday the U.S. intelligence community testified to the Senate that Russia would continue to try to interfere in U.S. elections. The testimony once again drew attention to the Trump administration’s Russia approach, which came under criticism in January when it released the long-awaited Russian Oligarch List. The slapdash release of that list set off a new round of recriminations between Washington and Moscow about election interference, as well as between the White House and Congress over who directs sanctions policy.

While Treasury Secretary Mnuchin indicated that the names publicized could be the target of future sanctions designations, it may not deter President Vladimir Putin or his network of supporters running Russia. The Trump administration and Congress should leverage attention around the Oligarch List to target dark money in the U.S. financial system, including Russian-funded election interference.

Among the reasons so many of Putin’s cronies have been able to hold onto their substantial fortunes is that they are sophisticated financial actors who know how to exploit different legal and regulatory frameworks around the world. As David Klion pointed out in a New York Times op-ed, much of Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election was aided by financial openness that allowed bad actors to stash money behind the reach of law enforcement or tax authorities.

Read the full op-ed in The Hill.