New anti-Russia sanctions lack previous vigor as ‘US is too busy with China’
As the second round of Skripal-related US sanctions against Russia come into effect, experts claim they’re much milder due to the fact that Washington’s attention is focused on its trade dispute with China.
The second batch of restrictions relating to the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury last year will come into force on Monday. These new sanctions prohibit US banks from certain types of engagement in the Russian sovereign debt market, as well as imposing licensing restrictions on goods controlled by the Department of Commerce. The US will also oppose any lending to Russia by international financial institutions. However, many consider these new restrictions to lack the determination of previous measures, with experts divided on the reasons behind the sudden softening of Washington’s attitude towards Moscow.
Vladimir Batyuk, a senior fellow with the Moscow-based Institute of USA and Canada, believes the attitude stems from Washington’s attempts to salvage its own economy.
“Washington was ruled by the interests of its own companies, many of which are not crazy about this sanctions war,” Batyuk told RT, noting that, for instance, US sanctions against Russian aluminum producer Rusal have harmed US car manufacturers as they led to a spike in aluminum prices.
“It is obvious that sanctions against, say, the energy sector would also be a blow to US oil giants like Shell,” he said.
The US is trying, on the one hand, to demonstrate American nerve and determination, and on the other hand not to shoot oneself in the foot,
The new sanctions do appear to be designed to cause minimum damage to Russia’s economy: there is no actual export ban, and while the purchase of Russia’s sovereign bonds on the primary market is banned, it is permitted on the secondary market. That is notwithstanding the fact that, under US laws, Washington could go so far as to lower the level of diplomatic relations, prohibit flights of state-owned airlines, and ban any imports from Russia, including oil and oil products. Yet Batyuk says that such actions could not be implemented simply because the US does not want to lose its niche in the Russian market.
Russia is not North Korea, you cannot impose arbitrarily strict sanctions against it for as long as you please.
“Moreover, anti-Russia sanctions could create a desire in, let’s say, China to replace US companies that leave the Russian market with their own, which will hardly benefit US interests,” the he warns.
China is number 1 on the agenda
Washington’s ongoing trade dispute with China may actually be the other reason for the current lack of interest towards Russia on the US’ part.
“US attentions are entirely focused on the trade dispute with China. With view of the rapid deterioration in relations between Washington and Beijing, one can anticipate no sharp regress in Washington’s relations with Russia,” Vasily Kashin, Far East researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told RT.
He says that Washington is not likely to come up with any actions that could bring new distress to financial markets as the dispute with China has already put a strain on them.
“If [the US] places new significant sanctions on Russia now, in addition to China, it will further worsen the situation. However, all in all, Washington’s line of action shows it is able of carrying off a simultaneous confrontation with both Russia and China and come out a victor.”
Despite US President Donald Trump announcing an extra five-percent duty on some $550 billion of Chinese goods last week, China’s top trade negotiator and Vice Premier Liu He said on Monday that Beijing was willing to resolve its trade dispute with the United States through calm negotiations. He said it resolutely opposes the escalation of the conflict. Also, speaking at the ongoing G7 summit, US President Donald Trump said Chinese officials got in touch with Washington to call for both sides to get back to negotiating a deal. Trump welcomed the development and vowed that the US would start negotiations shortly.
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