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Trump administration threatens Moscow with ‘more economic pain’ if Russia does not change its ways

August 21, 2018

The U.S. plans to exact “more economic pain” on Russia through a host of sanctions and other penalties if the Kremlin does not “significantly change” its aggressive activity around the globe, top Trump administration Treasury officials vowed on Tuesday.

Appearing before the Senate Banking Committee, Acting Deputy Treasury Secretary Sigal Mandelker said that “though Russia’s malign activities continue, we believe its adventurism undoubtedly has been checked by the knowledge that we can bring much more economic pain to bear using our powerful range of authorities.”

“We will not hesitate to do so if its conduct does not demonstrably and significantly change,” she added.

A driving force behind Treasury Department sanctions, Ms. Mandelker further explained that since 2013, U.S. officials have frozen hundreds of millions of dollars Russian-owned assets in America as part of Washington’s sanctions campaign against Moscow and that “Russia is taking note.”

Capitol Hill buzzed with Russia sanction-related debate on Tuesday as a second congressional hearing saw Marshall Billingslea, Treasury’s top terrorist financing official, note that over the past year in retribution for suspicious activity the administration had also expelled 60 Russian spies and closed Russia’s consulates in San Francisco and Seattle.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Billingslea said threats from Russia remain significant but would be “even further off the charts” if the U.S. was not imposing sanctions.

Wess Mitchell, the State Department’s top diplomat to Europe, told lawmakers that such penalties have cost Russia’s economy tens of billions of dollars and caused targeted companies to lose a quarter of their operating revenue and also shed employees.

U.S. sanctions had also recently cost Russia $8 billion to $10 billion in arms deals, he added.

As the relationship between the former Cold War adversaries has continued to strain, recent years have seen Washington increasingly rely upon levying financial sanctions against Russian institutions and individuals as punishment for aggressive Kremlin foreign policy maneuvers.

These include the annexation of Crimea, involvement in the Syrian civil war and meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election which Moscow has denied.

President Trump has repeatedly expressed a desire to improve ties with Moscow. But since the start of his administration, new sanctions have been imposed on more than 200 Russian-related individuals and entities, including many of the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s favored oligarchs.

Separately on Tuesday, The Trump administration slapped new sanctions on Russian shipping companies and vessels for transporting oil to North Korea in violation of United Nation’s prohibitions in addition to penalties against Russian companies and individuals for malicious cyber-enabled activity.

The move, made by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), reinforced the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign to force North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

The Russian vessels were designated or black-listed for breaking the sanctions by transferring oil to ships from the rough regime, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea.

The cyber-related designations hit two companies and two individuals for attempting to buy underwater and diving equipment for Russian government agencies, including a Kremlin intelligence service.

S.A. Miller contributed to this article.

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