2020: The Apocalypse From Sanctions

Analysis 17 February 2020
2020: The Apocalypse From Sanctions

Russia is afraid of UN General Assembly resolutions. But it is most afraid of new sanctions.

It is fear of the possibility of new repressions or complete isolation that pushes the Kremlin into more and more adventures.

Moscow’s initiative to hold a Security Council briefing on February 18 is just such a step. The task is very simple – to poison the agenda with disinformation on February 20, when at the initiative of Ukraine the UN General Assembly at a special session will consider the situation in the temporarily occupied territories.

Since all possible ways of peaceful consensual settlement of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine have already been exhausted, there is quite a high probability that the General Assembly will raise the price of its aggression for Russia.

It is the prospect of such a decision that forces Moscow to use all possible resources to prevent this from happening.

In this case, it does not matter with what arguments Russia will block a possible decision of the Security Council, if any. What is important is that the need to strengthen the sanctions regime, voiced from the UN tribune, will become a trigger mechanism for legislative bodies in many countries. First of all, the United States, which the Kremlin is even afraid to think about.

From now on, I’d like to be more specific.

The increase in the U.S. and EU sanctions pressure on Russia has different speeds. While Brussels adheres to a consistent prolongation of earlier decisions on the “Ukrainian package” while gradually increasing them, Washington is strengthening anti-Russian sanctions on the exponent, setting the pace for Europe. Obviously, across the ocean, the Kremlin’s aggressive behavior is seen as outrageous, resulting in a commensurate increase in punishment.

Today, there are two bills in the U.S. Congress that could drown the Russian economy – DETER (On Protecting Elections from Hostile Regimes’ Trolls) and DASKA (On Protecting American Security from Kremlin Aggression – introduces severe sanctions immediately after the law is passed). The latter was approved by the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on December 18. It was called “sanctions from hell,” and refers to Russia as a sponsor of terrorism.

Each of the bills has two-party support and is a demonstration of the unity of Congress in relation to Russia and what should be the White House policy in this direction.

DASKA authors South Carolina Republican Lindsay Graham and New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez propose to extend the CAATSA sanctions and increase pressure on Russia for two main reasons: interference in the domestic policy of the United States and aggression against Ukraine.

He commits the U.S. National Intelligence and the State Department to regular monitoring and reporting to Congress on the Kremlin’s interference with democratic processes in other countries.

The bill calls on the Russian leadership to return the Crimea to Kiev’s control, to stop supporting violence in eastern Ukraine, to stop the occupation of the territories of Georgia and Moldova, as well as not to allow the regime of Bashar al-Assad to commit war crimes in Syria.

The document imposes sanctions on the Russian cyber-sector and shipbuilding, on Russian LNG projects abroad, and the most painful thing is that it prohibits operations with Russian state debt and dollar settlements with Russian banks, and imposes a technological blockade on new hydrocarbon projects inside Russia.

It accuses Russia of undermining the work of the UN Security Council, also mentions the owner of the “troll factory” EvgenyPrigozhin and PMC “Wagner”.

“To survive” such sanctions in anticipation of a possible “thaw” of Russia will not succeed.

Earlier, Donald Trump’s administration had tacitly resisted the bill. The State Department called it oversaturated, which narrows down Washington’s ability to be flexible towards Russia. One can even assume that the NDAA (Defense Budget 2020) law that stopped Nord Stream 2 was signed by the White House head in exchange for a relaxation of Senate activity on DASKA. It is quite in Trump’s spirit to go for such an exchange, given his “business” approach to political issues. Like the dirt on Biden in exchange for military aid.

However, a lot has changed since December – Trump survived the impeachment procedure, from which he emerged weak. And although he avoided immediate resignation, 52 to 48 in the Senate is not a victory. During the court hearings, CNN published the results of the poll, where 51% of respondents were in favor of Trump’s removal from power. Other polls showed similar results. He’s already gone down in history as the third president with a red card. Now several committees of Congress continue their own investigations against the president, and criminal and civil lawsuits against Trump are handled by the New York and Los Angeles prosecutors’ offices.

For the Republicans themselves, this was not about saving the president, but about the image and prestige of the party in a presidential election year.

In other words, Trump has lost his moral legitimacy, which obliges him as president to be more attentive to initiatives from Capitol Hill, especially legislative ones.

All this significantly increases the chances of a new sanction law passing through Congress and being approved by the president.

Defending the need to promote the Bill, the bill’s authors and other senators do not choose expressions. In December, Senator Graham said..: “A strong vote indicates an overwhelming desire on the part of the entire Senate to oppose Russian interference in our elections and Putin’s operations around the world. Senator Menendez supported him: “By accepting DASKA, we intend to bring Vladimir Putin to justice and will actively fight for US national security. Colorado Republican Senator and U.S. Helsinki Commission member Cory Gardner stressed that “Putin’s Russia is a criminal regime obsessed with undermining international law and destroying the liberal global order. After invading Ukraine, conducting chemical attacks on NATO territory, supporting the Assad regime, violating arms control treaties and interfering in U.S. elections, Russia’s actions require the strongest response from the United States. He also added that “the definition of Russia as a sponsor of terrorism will send a message around the world that this lawless regime will not stop at violating basic norms of international law.

A precondition for the revival of the new bill may be a new complementary procedure recently adopted by the Council of Europe to respond to violations of statutory obligations, which complicates the process of punishment of Russia. The Capitol will not tolerate this state of affairs.

Although big international business does not agree, it complies with the requirements of American regulators. Thus, the Congress turns the sanctions legislation into an initiative of the U.S. to create a world system of counteraction to Russian aggression, thanks to which Washington itself gets a powerful leverage to influence world politics and business.

DASKA is already becoming a trigger for similar laws in Europe – the Baltic States and Scandinavia have started working on similar projects.

There is enough evidence to attribute the Kremlin’s behavior to sponsoring international terrorism. These are IGIL support, use of chemical weapons in Syria, interference in elections not only in the U.S., cyberattacks on strategic objects, hijacking of ships in the Azov Sea, support of “national liberation” movements around the world, state terrorism in the form of poisoning of Fiddlers in London and killing of Hangoshvili in Berlin.

The very fact of being on the list of state sponsors of terrorism is a tangible blow to the reputation. For Putin, being on the blacklist would be disastrous. It will mean the end of the “land-gathering” process and the end of the “great power” era.

The economy will suffer even more. In summer 2018, the mere mention of the legislative initiative of the Capitol caused panic on the Moscow Stock Exchange and led to the collapse of the ruble. And a year ago, the news about the introduction of an updated and tightened project in the Senate for 40 minutes of evening trading “blown off” the stock exchange of $400 million. In December, analysts of Morgan Stanley Bank on the background of the successful passage of the bill through the profile committee recommended the entire market to sell the ruble, get rid of Russian shares and stock up on default insurance (CDS) to Russia.

If all the previous sanctions packages can be figuratively characterized as punctures below the waterline, the adoption of DASKA will mean an open Kingston valve – capital outflow from Russia will accelerate, and foreign business partners will run away from joint projects with Russian residents.

There is no doubt that international diplomatic and sanctions pressure will not stop Putin and his followers. He will continue to put pressure on the policies of other countries, interfere in elections and “piss on the toilet” opponents.

All that remains is to wish the international community patience and integrity, and hope that this year the Russian dictator will go down in history by tightly closing the Iron Curtain and disconnecting one eighth of the land from SWIFT.

And with Russia’s coming to the club of outcasts the friendly company of Iran, North Korea and Syria will only get stronger.

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