21 July 2017   Leave a comment

In the discussions about the role of Russian interference in the 2016 US elections, there have been many references about the Magnitsky Act.  The Magnitsky Act has a very complicated history and Foreign Policy has a very good article describing how it came about and its effects on US-Russian relations.  The critical part of the Act is that it identifies specific Russian individuals who are barred from using certain financial institutions for international transactions and that feature limits the ability of those individuals to launder money out of Russia.  The new head of White House communications, Anthony Scaramucci, is on record as believing that US sanctions against Russia are bad policy (Scaramucci was the managing director of the hedge fund, SkyBridge Capital).  The policy on Russian sanctions are an incredible lens into the Trump Administration.  Just on Tuesday, the Treasury Department levied a $2 million fine on ExxonMobil for violating sanctions by investing in the Russian oil company, Rosneft.  The investments were made when the current Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson was the CEO of ExxonMobil.  ExxonMobil is suing the Treasury Department for imposing the fine and has named the current Treasury Secretary, Stephen Mnuchin, as the lead defendant.  You know that something is wrong when a country has two Cabinet Secretaries suing each other.

US Sanctions Against Russia

BI Graphics_Russia Sanctions


The conflict in Syria has exposed certain contradictions in US foreign policy.  On the one hand, the US shares the same objective of defeating Daesh (the Islamic State) in Iraq and Syria as its sworn enemy Iran. Despite having a common objective, the US imposed new sanctions on Iran despite certifying that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear agreement forged with Great Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia. The evidence suggests that President Trump was adamantly opposed to this certification, but was overridden by his National Security Adviser, his Secretary of Defense, and his Secretary of State. The new sanctions are in response to Iranian support for Hezbollah and for the Iranian missile program, issues which are clearly unrelated to the nuclear agreement.  It seems clear that the US seems intent on provoking Iran to break the nuclear agreement since none of the other signatories would join the US in breaking the agreement.

The US has also indicated that it changed its policy on Syrian President Assad.  Former President Obama wanted Assad to leave, but President Trump seems inclined to allow him to stay, a policy that strengthens the Russian position in Syria.  But the US is also building bases in southern Syria which directly challenge Russian and Iranian moves in that region.  The US, Russia, and Iran are all rushing to fill the vacuum caused by the slow disintegration of Islamic State control in Syria.

Posted July 21, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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