New U.S. sanctions against Russia for last spring’s nerve agent attack in Britain will go into effect Monday, but their impact will be limited among a raft of other punitive measures already in place.
But while the measures themselves — largely prohibiting U.S. technological exports and government financing — mostly overlap with sanctions previously imposed for other Russian behavior, they indicate the ongoing deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations.
The law also gives Russia 90 days to acknowledge the attack, eliminate its chemical weapons stocks, and open its doors to international inspections or risk more draconian actions that theoretically could lead anywhere from elimination of all U.S. commercial bank financing to the severing of diplomatic relations.
Those are among the measures that are spelled out in the 1991 Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act. The State Department posted a notice Friday in the Federal Register outlining the measures.
Russia has denied involvement in the March attack against Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy living in Britain, and his daughter, Yulia. Both survived exposure to the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, although a British woman later died from exposure to residue of the toxin left on a perfume bottle.
In prohibiting U.S. foreign assistance, defense sales and military financing, government credit, and national security-sensitive exports to Russia — all mandated in the legislation — the posted notice carves out exceptions for humanitarian aid and technology related to commercial air safety and space cooperation.
It says that licenses for excepted exports will be approved on a case-by-case basis. Those restrictions and exceptions are already in place for most exports, under sanctions imposed for Russia’s activity in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, as well as interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
U.S. Export-Import Bank activity in Russia has been under a formal hold because of Crimea.
The administration has resisted a push by lawmakers for even more stringent sanctions, as President Trump has called for more cooperation with Russia on a range of foreign policy issues. But Trump, in an interview with Reuters this week, said he has no intention of lifting existing sanctions. White House national security adviser John Bolton said on a visit to Ukraine that “the sanctions remain in force and will remain in force until the required change in Russian behavior.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Friday that “all options are on the table” in terms of a response to the sanctions, according to the Interfax news agency.
“Many have been saying that Russia should stop supplying the United States with rocket engines, aircraft titanium, and uranium concentrate. But that’s shooting ourselves in the foot,” he said.
“We should get ready for the United States’ eventual decision to stop or significantly reduce its purchases of such Russian products. We should not jump the gun,” Ryabkov said. “There will be no rapid change for the better in any event, given the sentiment in the United States today.”