U.S. Issues ‘Russia List’, Portrays Those Featured As ‘Enemies Of The US’

Russia list
By DonkeyHotey (Vladimir Putin carrying his buddy Donald Trump) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The U.S. Treasury Department has released a list of prominent Russian business and political figures as part of a sanctions law signed by President Donald Trump in August, CNN reported. The recently declassified Russia list was released in defiance of Moscow and in the wake of implementing a new Congressional law designed to deal with Russian election meddling.

The U.S. Treasury Russia list was published shortly before its midnight deadline, listing almost every single member of the current political administration at the Kremlin, along with every Russian oligarch with a net worth exceeding $1 billion.

The Russia list, originally titled “Report to Congress Pursuant to Section 241 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 Regarding Senior Foreign Political Figures and Oligarchs in the Russian Federation and Russian Parastatal Entities,” called all of those featured “enemies” of Washington.

“You can see that de facto everybody [included on the list] is called an enemy of the US,” Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Russian president, stated on Tuesday. According to RT, Peskov said that the list has created an “unprecedented situation” and will be further analyzed in Moscow.

Russian senator Vladimir Dzhabarov, who is also the First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs, told reporters that the Russia list amounts to almost a complete breakdown of ties between Moscow and Washington.

“Formally our countries have relations, but including in the sanctions list almost all our country’s leadership means that those relations automatically break down,” he said. According to RT, Dzhabarov also called the Russia list a “gross interference” in Russia’s internal affairs.

According to the official document with the Russia list, none of the individuals on the list are currently being sanctioned. That, however, didn’t stop many of the named individuals from objecting to the list.

“I do not know what will follow this report, but its very appearance is unprecedented,” Frants Klintsevich, the deputy head of a Russian upper house committee, said. Senator Konstantin Kosachev said the Russia list points to the fact that the U.S. intelligence “is desperate to find some provable compromising material on Russian politicians.”

Business Ombudsman Boris Titov, who is also the leader of Russia’s Party of Growth, likened the measure to a kidney punch. “They [the US] hit the ‘pianists’ playing for everyone, not for those in power. They have hit those who decent people usually do not shoot,” Titov told Interfax on Tuesday.

Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, who is also named on the Russia list, said “Such lists could not be thought of even in the worst periods of history. Measures like these do not split, they unite [people].”

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the Russia list a slap against all Russians but said that his country will not react immediately to the roster. A spokesperson for President Putin described the document as a new American “enemies list” that could harm many reputations.

“This is definitely an unfriendly act,” Mr. Putin said during a campaign event for the March 2018 presidential election. “It is complicating Russian-American relations, where the situation is already hard and is definitely harming international relations in general.”

“We were prepared to undertake retaliatory steps, and quite serious ones, too, which would cut our relations to zero,” he said, but added that they “will refrain from such steps for the time being.”

Who else is on the Russia list?

Despite the document itself saying that being included in the Russia list did not mean being involved in “malign activities,” at least 22 people on the list had already been placed under U.S. sanctions by the administration of President Barack Obama. The sanctions said they had played key roles in fueling the Ukraine crisis.

The Russia list features the most prominent political figures at the Kremlin, led by Dmitry Medvedev, Russian prime minister, and former Russian president. Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister since 2004, Sergey Shoigu, the defense minister, and Aleksandr Bortnikov, head of Russian Security Service (FSB), are also on the list.

Herman Gref, the head of Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, was among the 96 oligarchs named in the Russia list. Missing from the list, however, was Sberbank’s former executive and current head of the Central Bank of Russia, Elvira Nabiullina. Nabiullina, listed as the 72nd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes, served as President Vladimir Putin’s economic adviser.

Among the well-known people on the list was Mikhail Prokhorov, the owner of the Brooklyn Nets, as well as Eugene Kaspersky, whose antivirus technology firm has been accused of cooperation with Russian intelligence. Head of Gazprom, Russia’s largest gas company, Alexey Miller, is also named on the Russia list, along with Arkady Volozh, founder of “Yandex,” Russia’s largest search engine.

What effects will the Russia list have?

With Russian President Vladimir Putin joking that he was offended by not being included on the list, it’s clear that the controversial Russia list had very little effect on Russian politics.

Political analyst John Bosnich described Washington’s decision to publish the Kremlin List “as a ratcheting up of the psychological war of words and pressure.”

“It is a little bit of a variation on brinkmanship, it is ‘blinkmanship.’ They are trying to make one side or the other blink and become too afraid or too nervous,” he told RT. Bosnich believes that the Russia list is an attempt to isolate President Putin by terrorizing people “who work in legitimate, democratic positions inside the Russian government.”

Andrew Leung, international and independent China specialist and political commentator, said, “the list is not scrapped, it is there, it means it is part of the preparation of ramping up of sanctions.”

Despite the purpose of the Russia list being very vaguely defined, it’s clear that one of its goals must be destabilizing the political climate. However, seeing just how intertwined business and politics are in Russia, it’s hard to say whether or not the Kremlin list will have the desired effect.