A Reminder That Sanctions Are Worthless Unless They're Enforced

Last week, I wrote a piece addressing the common confusion about why Donald Trump occasionally agrees to a policy that makes him, ever so briefly, look as though he cares about Russian aggression. Like, for instance, kicking out Russian spies. "Russia doesn't need spies in the United States when the United States president will share highly classified intel directly with Russian diplomats right in the Oval Office," I observed.

[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] That's the backdrop for today's news that the Trump administration has "unveiled new actions against Russian officials, oligarchs, businesses, and agencies — freezing assets that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction."
One of those named is Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire with links to former Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort, who has been charged in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

"There is no question that this activity goes after a number of individuals and entities surrounding the Kremlin regime, and this will be noticed far and wide," a senior administration official said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
What a carefully parsed statement that is technically very accurate! There is indeed no question about who is targeted, nor that it will be widely noticed. What the anonymous official studiously leaves out is whether the move will be effective — and that's because it won't.

Regarding the breathless news that Trump has "imposed sanctions" on Russia, Sarah Kendzior explains: "'Impose' is different than 'enforce.' The sanctions that have been imposed have not been truly enforced. For example, Pompeo hosted Russian spies who are banned from US soil under sanctions, and now is going to be Secretary of State." Further: "As this article notes, oligarchs targeted by sanctions have had so much time to move their assets that the effect is minimal. The slowness is and was intentional."

One of the oligarchs targeted by this latest round of silly-sanctions is Oleg Deripaska, one of the wealthiest men in the world and a close ally of Vladimir Putin. If that name sounds familiar, that may be because Deripaska is the same Russian oligarch for whom Paul Manafort worked for at least half a decade, during which time he assisted Deripaska in advancing Putin's interests and "proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics."

Deripaska is the same guy to whom Manafort promised "private briefings" during the 2016 campaign and to whom Manafort reportedly owed somewhere between $7.8 and $19 million.

And that's the relationship that you'll see highlighted in most stories about today's sanctions. But more importantly, just last month Deripaska "bought a Cypriot passport under a controversial scheme that allows rich investors to acquire citizenship and visa-free access to the European Union." Cyprus is a favored destination of Russian oligarchs needing to hide and/or launder assets, and the vice-chair of the board of Bank of Cyprus PCL, the largest bank in Cyprus, is none other than U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

These sanctions are nothing, because they will not be enforced in any meaningful way. The point was to get headlines from media outlets inexplicably willing to indulge the pretense that the Trump administration is getting serious on Russia.

They got their headlines. Welp.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus