KLM Updates

Perspectives: Are Economic Sanctions Enough?

Are economic sanctions against Russia enough?

After much debate concerning the Russian interference in the 2016 elections, many have wondered why (after much corroborating evidence) there have been no actions taken by the Trump administration. Even in the wake of the mid-term elections of 2018, there have been reports that the Russians are planning to enact some form of subversive attack as well. Still, there has been no activity from the White House.

Why has the Trump administration delayed action in response to reports of Russian interference in the 2016 elections?

Some news reports have reported that the president is giving the appearance of disbelief concerning Russian involvement in the outcome of the 2016 presidential elections because he feels it would delegitimize his presidency. Regardless of whether the president feels this way about the issue, only he and whomever is in his inner circle would truly know. However, the president’s feelings are not the items in question. The Congress and the American people want to know if the president has any intention of executing his duties as presented in the oath of office, which states,

 “I, (person’s name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God…” (5 U.S. Code 3331).

Will the delayed response of the Trump Administration be enough to deter Russian influence in the 2018 mid-term elections?

As the world and the American people watch, to date, no publicly released recommendations have been made by the Trump administration nor the three congressional committees investigating the matter. Last year, however, Congress unanimously passed a measure to increase sanctions against Russia in the areas of defense, energy, banking, intelligence, railways, metals, and mining industries. However, according to news reports, the president never signed the measure to authorize the sanctions, thus placing the president at odds with Congress and the American people concerned with the potential influence and impact of another round of compromised elections by Russia. The question now becomes, “Are economic sanctions enough?”

At this point, we must ask, “What are sanctions? More specifically, what are economic sanctions?” According to the Council on Foreign Affairs,

“Economic sanctions are defined as the withdrawal of customary trade and financial relations for foreign and security policy purposes. They may be comprehensive, prohibiting commercial activity with regard to an entire country, or they may be targeted, blocking transactions of and with particular businesses, groups, or individuals…”

The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury (OFAC) is responsible for the administration and enforcement of economic and trade sanctions that are:

“…based on US foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United​ States…”

The OFAC provides a list of either comprehensive or selective economic sanctions programs the U.S. government has enacted against other countries. To date, there are approximately 28 active sanctions programs on the list, one of which includes Russia concerning the Ukranian conflict. As it relates to business relations, the OFAC does not maintain a specific list of countries with whom U.S. individuals cannot conduct business. This is the result of the diversity of sanctions programs. However, the OFAC does have what is termed the “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List)” which has approximately 5,500 names connected with sanctions targets. This list is comprised of “...individuals, groups and entities owned or controlled by, or acting on behalf of, targeted countries…” This leads to an important question: Were the 13 Russian individuals and entities indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on the SDN List? 

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has what is termed the “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List)” comprised of “…individuals, groups and entities owned or controlled by, or acting on behalf of, targeted countries…”

In light of recent events, there have been reports that the Trump Administration could possibly implement economic sanctions on Russian entities in the upcoming weeks to follow, which may include the Internet Research Agency, the Russian entity responsible for interference in the 2016 elections. According to reports, the Trump Administration is currently working collaboratively with the State and Treasury departments to coordinate the measures. However, at this point, several questions must be asked:

  • Are economic sanctions enough to deter external interference from foreign governments in domestic affairs?
  • Is the U.S. government using every available measure to defend against recurrence?
  • What are the Trump administration’s plans concerning actions already taken by Russian entities in the 2016 elections?
  • What is the U.S. government’s plan moving forward “…to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…“?

The prolonged inactivity of the Trump administration could lead to disastrous results in the 2018 mid-term elections. Partisan politics are destroying the fabric of this nation and diminishing the global influence America holds in areas of foreign policy. The American and global communities need to see decisive leadership that will implement whatever measures necessary to prevent an overthrow of democratic practices by those who reject policies that are beneficial to all. In consideration of this, the overall question remains, “Are economic sanctions enough?”

Sean Mungin, author of “The Thorn In The Flesh”

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