US imposes sweeping sanctions on Russian economy
The Biden administration announcement it will sanction dozens of Russian officials and entities, expel 10 diplomats from the United States, and establish new restrictions on the purchase of Russian sovereign debt in response to SolarWinds’ massive hacking of federal agencies and interference in elections from 2020.
Why is this important: The massive retaliatory acts aim to impose heavy economic costs on Russia, after years of sanctions that have failed to deter an increasingly aggressive and authoritarian president, Vladimir Putin.
Details: The administration has officially accused the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) of hacking SolarWinds, which Microsoft President Brad Smith called “the biggest and most sophisticated attack the world has ever seen.” The intelligence community said it had “great confidence” in the assessment.
- The sanctions package will ban U.S. banks from buying Russian government bonds directly from the country’s central bank, sovereign wealth fund and finance ministry from June 14, complicating Russia’s ability to raise funds in international capital markets.
- A senior administration official told reporters the move would create a “wider chilling effect” that would weaken the ruble and have negative implications for inflation and economic growth.
- Six Russian tech companies will be sanctioned for supporting Russian intelligence cyber activities, while 32 entities and individuals will be named for their role in the Kremlin’s election interference campaign.
- Ten Russian officials will also be expelled from the United States A senior administration official said their activities in the United States were “incompatible” with their diplomatic status, noting that they were suspected of espionage.
- Another senior administration official noted that the United States was taking additional measures that “would remain invisible.”
In partnership with the European Union, the UK, Australia and Canada, the US will also sanction eight people and entities for their role in Russia’s ongoing occupation of Crimea.
- Thursday’s sanctions will not be linked to allegations that Russia paid Afghan militants to attack US troops. A senior administration official said US intelligence had “low to moderate confidence” that Russia had made such payments due to the “difficult operating environment” in Afghanistan.
- The administration said that “given the sensitivity of the matter” it would be “dealt with through diplomatic, military and intelligence channels”.
What he says : “We cannot allow a foreign power to interfere in our democratic process with impunity,” President Biden said Thursday.
- “If Russia continues to interfere with our democracy. I am prepared to take further steps to respond to it. It is my responsibility as President of the United States to do so.”
The big picture: On the second day of his tenure, Biden ordered the intelligence community to conduct a review of Russia’s “reckless and contradictory actions” in four areas: election interference, the SolarWinds hack, poisoning and imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and reports on Russian bonuses. on US troops in Afghanistan.
- The United States sanctioned seven senior Russian officials in March after assessing “with great confidence” that Federal Security Service (FSB) agents poisoned Navalny using the nerve agent Novichok.
- Two weeks later, U.S. intelligence released a report assessing that Putin had authorized electoral influence operations aimed at denigrating Biden’s candidacy.
Driving the news: The announcement comes two days after Biden had a phone call with Putin and proposed a summit “in a third country in the coming months.”
- Biden also warned Putin of further “cyber-intrusions and electoral interference” and expressed concern over the gathering of Russian forces on the border with eastern Ukraine, which CIA Director William Burns noted Wednesday is now big enough for a “limited military foray”.
- A senior administration official said it was not clear whether Putin would accept Biden’s summit proposal, but that it was “vital” that the two meet in the coming months “to find a way to be continued stable and predictable “.
- “We have no desire to be in an escalating cycle with Russia,” the official said, adding that the United States reserves the right to respond to any Russian reaction to Thursday’s measures.
The other side: “We condemn any aspiration to sanctions. We believe they are illegal. In any case, the principle of reciprocity applies in this case. Reciprocity will serve our interests in the best possible way,” the door said on Thursday. – speech of the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov.
- US Ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan has been summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry, spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a press conference. Report Thusday.
To note: Despite the fact that the United States itself is very active in cyber espionage, a senior administration official said it was appropriate to respond to the SolarWinds attack because of its “scope and scale. extended “, the possibility that networks could be degraded” in the blink of an eye “, and because much of the burden has fallen on the private sector.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with Biden’s comments on Thursday.