Economic Sanctions Initiative

  • Memo to Congress: Treasury’s Plan to Lift Sanctions on Russian Oligarch’s Companies is a Good One

    US lawmakers must not allow understandable concerns about US President Donald J. Trump’s views of Russia to overshadow the technical merits of the administration’s divestiture plan to remove sanctions on aluminum giant Rusal and two other companies—EN+ and EuroSibEnergo, or ESE—sanctioned for their ties to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. After months of negotiations, Treasury officials have arrived at a delisting arrangement worthy of careful consideration and approval.

    US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s January 10 congressional briefing on the details of the administration’s divestiture plan,  and the ongoing attention to this issue, sharpens the debate on whether the Rusal delisting is the appropriate action and whether Congress ought to exercise its authority under the Countering America’s Adversaries


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  • Financial Transparency Legislation Would Help Defend US National Security

    This is the first in a two-part series.

    On December 8, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Congress declared war on Japan. Two weeks after al Qaeda attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, the CIA was on the ground in Afghanistan.

    The Russian attack on US democracy in 2016 was not deadly, but it was similarly harmful to US national security. The West, however, has still not pushed back strongly enough to stop the hybrid war Moscow continues to wage against the United States and its European allies.

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  • The RUSAL Deal: A Good Outcome?

    The Trump administration’s long-awaited decision to delist aluminum giant RUSAL finally became public on December 19. The deal that RUSAL’s holding company EN+ has struck with the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is sure to draw the ire of those who want to see RUSAL continue under sanctions as a means to punish the Russian economy. The deeper view, however, is that sanctions targeting RUSAL’s founder and now indirect minority shareholder, Oleg Deripaska, worked exactly the way they are supposed to and that Deripaska’s fate should frighten other Russian oligarchs who cooperate with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s misadventures abroad or are part of his corrupt circle. OFAC was also smart to pair the delisting with additional designations to demonstrate a continued stance against the Kremlin’s aggressions.

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  • Sultoon Quoted in Bloomberg on US Penalties against Viktor Vekselberg

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  • Can Sanctions Put a Dent in Crypto Crime?

    On November 28, the US Treasury Department took an important step in responding to the SamSam ransomware cyberattacks, which occurred earlier this year. Considered one of the most effective cyberattacks in US history, the hackers behind SamSam since 2015 have targeted institutions ranging from companies to hospitals to schools, demanding payments in Bitcoin as ransom. After being paid, the hackers laundered these funds through online cryptocurrency exchanges into Iranian riyals, reaping the rewards of their malicious behavior. As part of their designation, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) included the Bitcoin addresses of Iran-based Ali Khorashadizadeh and Mohammed Ghorbaniyan, who are accused of...
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  • Trade Disrupted: US and China Need More Than a Truce

    At this year’s G20 summit in Buenos Aires, the trade dispute between China and the United States took center stage. Chinese President Xi and his US counterpart President Donald Trump agreed to avoid further escalations of the ongoing bilateral trade war for the next 90 days. The temporary deal does not assuage the escalatory measures already taken, leaving the existing tariffs in place. This edition of the EconoGraphic explores how the brewing trade conflict is impacting manufacturing supply chains, soybean cargo routes, and trade flows of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) among the United States, China, and the rest of the world.

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  • Trump Administration's New Nicaragua Sanctions Strategically Target the Top

    After US National Security Advisor John Bolton warned the “troika of tyranny”—Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela—of forthcoming action earlier in November, it was only a matter of time before the Trump administration escalated its response to the violent repression this spring of anti-government demonstrators and the continued erosion of democratic institutions in Nicaragua. The announcement by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on November 27 of a new sanctions regime targeting Daniel Ortega’s administration and its supporters was a delayed but targeted way of increasing pressure on the Nicaraguan president and his cronies.

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  • Beware the Lure of Sanctions for Russia’s Latest Aggression

    It’s Monday, which means that Russia is again antagonizing its neighbors to the west. But instead of little green men, Wagner “private” security forces, or Russian regulars acting under another flag, this time the FSB—Russia’s internal security service—openly fired upon and captured three Ukrainian naval vessels attempting to traverse the Kerch Strait that separates the two countries. This is a significant escalation by Moscow of tensions that have simmered for months as Russia has harassed legitimate and important Ukrainian trade ships that traverse the disputed strait to Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov. The chief dispute, of course, centers on Russia’s illegal invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014 and...
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  • Global Magnitsky Sanctions: Raising the Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Bar

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    The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi thrust an otherwise little-known sanctions program into the spotlight—the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (or GloMag in sanctions parlance). On November 15, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control used the GloMag authority to designate seventeen Saudi citizens for their role in the Khashoggi killing. In “Global Magnitsky Sanctions: Raising the Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Bar” author Samantha Sultoon, a visiting senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Business &...

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  • Treasury Right to Sanction Saudis in Response to Khashoggi Killing

    The November 15 announcement by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the designation of seventeen Saudis for their role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi should be commended. While the Trump administration has been delayed in responding to the murder, with the president slowly forming a “very strong opinion,” the sanctions demonstrate that the administration has not stood idly by.

    Given the need for continued cooperation with the Saudi government on counterterrorism, oil production, and a host of other sensitive issues, the Global Magnitsky (or GloMag in sanctions parlance) sanctions authority was a strategic tool to use as...

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