Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, center right, talks to the media after losing his case against Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich as he leaves the High Court in London, Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. Berezovsky lost his multibillion-dollar legal battle against a fellow Russian oligarch on Friday, with a British judge ruling that Roman Abramovich was the more truthful witness in their clash over vast oil wealth. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
Last week, the Trump administration expelled 60 Russian diplomats and shuttered the Russian consulate in Seattle in retaliation for the nerve agent attack on a former MI-6 agent and his daughter in Salisbury, England. This was the largest diplomatic action against Russia since the Cold War.
Now another round of sanctions is about to be introduced:
The United States is expected to impose additional sanctions against Russia by Friday, according to U.S. officials.
The sanctions are economic and designed to target oligarchs with ties to President Vladimir Putin, the officials said. The final number of Russians facing punitive action remains fluid, the U.S. officials said, but is expected to include at least a half-dozen people under sanction powers given to the president by Congress.
The United States is expected to target individuals on a list of influential Russian political and business leaders that the Treasury Department released in January, officials said.
In Congress, the Trump administration continues to face pressure from Russia hawks in both parties to take aggressive action against Putin. In an interview, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said that while he admired the administration’s moves, he believed they had been tried by other administrations and had failed. He said the United States needed to help countries that rely on Russia for oil and gas find new opportunities.
“We have to hit them by taking away their customers,” he said.
The booting of Russian diplomats is pretty much kabuki. It was when Obama did it in December 2016 and it was when Trump did it last week. It might be necessary kabuki but it was kabuki nonetheless. It had limited value in any way. I’m also not sure what the end game is in smacking Russia around. What are we trying to achieve? Russia has the GDP of New York state. It is hardly a peer competitor but it can make a lot of trouble in its sphere of influence.
However, if we are trying to inflict pain on Russia for some reason, maybe just sh**s-and-grins, the Clausewitzian schwerpunkt is not Russian diplomats or consulates or Mueller bullsh** indictments of random Russian hackers who will never, ever, be extradited, the way to get Russia’s attention is by whacking the financial underpinnings of the oligarchs who prop up Putin. Having said that, I don’t see this being all that too successful. Too many of our allies rely too much on the cash of Russian oligarchs. Ultimately, I think this will end up being yet another gesture of displeasure that has small, if any, effect.