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Treasury Can’t Go Wobbly When Sanctions Against Russians Are Starting to Hurt

Anybody in the inner circle of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin who might have cheered President Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 must now be sorely disappointed.

When it comes to dealing with Russia, Trump has been the toughest president since Ronald Reagan. He has sent advanced weapons to the Ukrainians and Georgians, increased U.S. defense spending in Europe, enlarged NATO, kicked out scores of Russian diplomats, and recently announced that the U.S. will withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

But perhaps Trump’s biggest impact has been with economic sanctions. He has slapped them on more than 200 Russian oligarchs and senior government officials and dozens of Russian organizations and companies.

These measures strike at the kleptocratic heart of Putin’s inner circle—and they are starting to bite. How do we know? Because Russian companies under U.S. sanctions are trying to find creative ways of getting off the sanctions list.

Leading the charge is Russian aluminum giant Rusal, owned by Putin crony Oleg Deripaska. In August, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin implied that sanctions against Rusal could be lifted if Deripaska, who is personally sanctioned by the U.S. government, shows he is no longer the company’s majority shareholder.

Several days after Mnuchin’s comments, Deripaska’s team of attorneys submitted a plan to the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the division inside the Treasury Department that would decide whether he actually has ceded control of the company.

Last week, Rusal missed a deadline to show that it had satisfactorily restructured its ownership to meet U.S. concerns. Astonishingly, instead of saying “Sorry, too little, too late” to Deripaska and his attorneys, Treasury gave them more time to make their case.

This is an incredibly high-profile case, and Treasury’s wobbliness has led other Russian companies to believe they can also restructure their ownership to get off the U.S. sanctions list, too.

Read the full story from The Daily Signal

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