The US has imposed a slew of sanctions on Russia in response to its “malign” behaviour.
To punish Russia for intervening in last year’s US election, cyber hacking, bullying Ukraine, and other suspected malign activities, the US placed a wide range of sanctions on Thursday, including restrictions on its sovereign debt market.
The US government put Russian firms on a blacklist, expelled Russian diplomats, and prohibited US banks from purchasing sovereign bonds issued by Russia’s central bank, national wealth fund, or Finance Ministry. The US warned Russia that further sanctions could be imposed, but stated that it did not want to worsen the situation.
He did not, however, bar them from purchasing such debt on the secondary market, a move that is likely to have a much more drastic impact on the Russian bond and currency markets, which initially dropped as news of the sanctions spread before restoring some of their losses.
The Treasury has imposed sanctions on eight people linked to Russia’s occupation of Crimea, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014. This was done in collaboration with the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada.
The White House announced the expulsion of ten Russian diplomats from Washington, including officials from Russian intelligence services, and officially designated the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) as the perpetrator of the SolarWinds hack for the first time. The allegations were described as “nonsense” and “windbaggery” by the department.
According to a US official, the government expects to issue a new executive order to improve cybersecurity, which may include encryption and multifactor authentication.
The White House also said that it would respond to claims that Russia had provided bounties to Taliban-affiliated insurgents in Afghanistan to kill US soldiers. Since they rely on often unreliable testimony from prisoners, US intelligence agencies have “low-to-moderate” trust in their evaluation of those accounts, it said.
Russia has long denied claims that it paid bounties to American soldiers in Afghanistan.
Andrew Weiss, a think tank analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was sceptical that the US sanctions would change the “largely competitive and adversarial relationship” between the two countries in the short term or discourage Russia in the long run.
“I’d be shocked if today’s very calibrated announcements by the Biden administration materially change the relationship in any direction,” he said, adding that while Russia was willing to collaborate on some topics, a meeting of minds on Ukraine or election meddling was impossible.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to expect the new sanctions to fundamentally change Russia’s risk calculus,” he said. “We should expect the Russians to continue poking and checking our resolve.”