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Testimony

Assessing U.S. Sanctions on Russia: Next Steps

Testimony for Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee
15th March 2017

Download the full testimony here.

Introduction

Chairman Crapo, Ranking Member Brown, and distinguished members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs, I am honored to appear before you today to discuss assessing U.S. sanctions on Russia and next steps.

I would like to focus my testimony on the effectiveness of the current U.S. sanctions programs targeting Russia, as well as what the United States can do to responsibly ramp up economic pressure on Russia to convince Moscow to cease destabilizing activities in Eastern Ukraine, reduce malicious cyber activities targeting the United States and its allies, and limit their military operations in Syria. 

To date, U.S. sanctions on Russia have a mixed record of success.  Many macroeconomic indicators and recent studies suggest the various forms of sanctions—in particular the sectoral sanctions imposed on key Russian economic sectors—have had an impact on overall Russian economic health.  Likewise, Russian Government officials continually push for sanctions relief, either in public statements[1] or by trying to undermine EU sanctions,[2] suggesting that Russia is feeling the pinch. 

Nevertheless, the United States has not achieved many of the core objectives it sought when deploying these tools; while the United States has imposed one of the most sophisticated sanctions regime ever constructed—including list-based sanctions targeting Russian individuals supporting separatist activities in eastern Ukraine, as well as individuals engaged in human rights abuses, a comprehensive embargo on Crimea, sectoral sanctions focused on key sectors of the Russian economy, sanctions targeting Russian malicious cyber activity, and secondary sanctions authority—Russia continues to engage in threatening activity in a range of areas.  In Eastern Ukraine, Russian-backed forces continue to violate the ceasefire, routinely attacking Ukrainian villages and military personnel.  Likewise, Moscow continues to target Russian opposition leaders, often with lethal means.  Last year and again more recently, Russian opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza was poisoned after speaking out about Russian human rights abuses and corruption, with many believing the Russian Government was behind the attempt on his life.[3]  This poisoning followed the shooting death of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in February 2015, a killing widely perceived as a response to Nemtsov’s outspoken protests against the government.[4]  In Syria, Russia continues to support President Bashar al-Assad with direct military intervention,[5] including during the Syrian Government’s brutal assault on Aleppo.[6]  And finally, in the cyber realm, according to the intelligence community, Russia has continued its efforts to influence and undermine U.S. allies across Europe, in recent months focusing these efforts on upcoming elections in Western Europe.[7]

This Committee should make no mistake; Russian activity in these areas poses a serious threat to U.S. interests and the United States should be prepared to use all elements of its national power—including its economic power—to blunt Moscow’s ability to undermine U.S. interests at home and abroad.      


[1] David Herszenhorn, “Putin Calls for End to Use of Sanctions and Criticizes U.S. in Afghanistan,” The New York Times, July 10, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/11/world/europe/putin-criticizes-us-role-in-afghanistan.html; “Russia Can’t Mend Times with U.S. While it Backs Sanctions: Lavrov,” Reuters, Dec. 10, 2015,  http://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-usa-lavrov-idUSKBN0TT0YR20151210; Roland Oliphant, “‘Cancel Sanctions and Scale Back NATO’ Russia Tells US as Vladimir Putin Scraps Nuclear Deal,” The Telegraph, Oct. 3, 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/03/putin-scraps-deal-to-dispose-of-bomb-grade-plutonium-in-swipe-at/; “Russia Demands U.S. End Sanctions, Pay Compensation if Plutonium Accord to be Resumed: Draft Law,” Reuters, Oct. 3, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-usa-nuclear-lawmaking-idUSKCN1231HA?il=0

[2] “Putin Steps Up Drive to Kill Sanctions Amid Signs of EU Disunity,” Voice of America News, July 29, 2016, http://www.voanews.com/a/putin-steps-up-drive-kill-sanctions-signs-eu-disunity/3440262.html.

[3] Andrew Kramer, “More of Kremlin’s Opponents Are Ending Up Dead,” The New York Times, Aug. 20, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/21/world/europe/moscow-kremlin-silence-critics-poison.html.

[4] Andrew Kramer, “Boris Nemtsov, Putim Foe, Is Shot Dead in Shadow of Kremlin,” The New York Times, Feb. 27, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/28/world/europe/boris-nemtsov-russian-opposition-leader-is-shot-dead.html.

[5] Sam Heller, “Russia in Charge in Syria: How Moscow Took Control of the Battlefield and Negotiating Table,” War On The Rocks, June 28, 2016, https://warontherocks.com/2016/06/russia-is-in-charge-in-syria-how-moscow-took-control-of-the-battlefield-and-negotiating-table/.

[6] Alison Meuse, “U.N. Report Says Syrian Forces and Rebel Factions Committed Aleppo ‘War Crimes’,” National Public Radio, Mar. 3, 2017, http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/03/03/518134951/u-n-report-says-syrian-forces-and-rebel-factions-committed-aleppo-war-crimes.

[7] “Background to ‘Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections’: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution,” Director of National Intelligence, Intelligence Community Assessment, Jan. 6, 2017, https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf.