U.S. threatens Russia with 'sanctions against trolls'

U.S. threatens Russia with 'sanctions against trolls'

U.S. Republican and Democratic senators will introduce legislation today seeking to deter Russia from possible meddling in U.S. elections by threatening stiff sanctions on its banking, energy and defense industries and sovereign debt, Reuters reported.

Known as the 'Deter Act' (Defending Elections against Trolls from Enemy Regimes Act), the legislation is the latest effort by U.S. lawmakers to ratchet up pressure on Moscow.

The measure will be introduced by Senators Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican. They offered a similar measure last year, when it also had bipartisan support but was never brought up for a vote by the Senate’s Republican leaders.

According to details of the legislation, it would require the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to determine, within 30 days of any federal election, whether Russia or any other foreign government, or anyone acting as an agent of that government, had engaged in election interference. If the DNI found such interference occurred, the act would require, among other things, that mandatory sanctions be imposed within 10 days on, among others, Russian banks and energy companies.

The act would mandate that sanctions be imposed on two or more from this list of Russian banks: Sberbank, VTB Bank, Gazprombank, Vnesheconombank and Rosselkhozbank. It would also order the prohibition of all transactions subject to U.S. jurisdiction in Russian sovereign debt, Russian government bonds and the debt of any entity owned or controlled by Russia’s government.

The sanctions would include blocking - freezing without seizing - any assets in the United States of those targeted for sanction, including senior Russian political figures and business leaders.

First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs Vladimir Dzhabarov, speaking to Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that the U.S. authorities do not want to abandon the topic of 'Russian interference' in the elections, despite the evidence that there was no interference by Moscow in the U.S. election campaign. "Why did the topic of elections and 'Russia's collusion' arise again? The Muller report proved that there was no collusion. The purpose of the new sanctions is very simple - restraining Russia's development at any price. But we are used to these sanctions, and we continue to work on our plans, programs and projects. These are not the first or last sanctions, so good riddance," the senator stressed.

The senior research fellow at the European Research Centre of the International Relations Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Olenchenko, suggested that Washington has no other foreign policy tools left but punitive ones. "Perhaps the U.S. administration and the elite as a whole no longer find other tools to communicate with other countries. They apply sanctions, restrictions and trade wars not only to opponents, but also to allies," he said.

"It is also possible that the purpose of the sanctions regime is not to just exert pressure, but create competitive advantages for the United States. Probably, the United States saw that they benefit from the sanctions, and the sanction process has become widespread for them," Vladimir Olenchenko concluded.

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