The United States puts a slew of penalties on Russia for “malign” conduct.

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The United States levied a slew of sanctions on Russia on Thursday, including restrictions on its sovereign debt market, to punish it for interfering in last year’s U.S. election, cyber theft, manipulating Ukraine, and other suspected malign acts.

The US government blacklisted Russian firms, removed Russian diplomats, and prohibited US banks from purchasing sovereign bonds issued by Russia’s central bank, national wealth fund, and Finance Ministry. The US warned Russia that further sanctions were likely, but that it did not want to exacerbate the situation.

The Russian Foreign Ministry responded furiously, calling the US ambassador for a diplomatic scolding and informing him that “a series of retaliatory measures will follow soon.” A future summit could also be jeopardised, according to a ministry spokeswoman.

Russia denies interfering in US campaigns, orchestrating a cyber hack that used US tech firm SolarWinds Corp (SWI.N) to infiltrate US government networks, and poisoning Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny with a nerve agent.

U.S. President Joe Biden spoke on Tuesday to Russian President Vladimir Putin to raise concerns about those issues and the buildup of Russian forces in Crimea and along the border with Ukraine, although a top U.S. general saw only a “low-to-medium” risk of a Russian invasion in the next few weeks.

Biden, who also proposed a U.S.-Russian summit, is trying to strike a balance between deterring what Washington sees as hostile Russian behavior, while avoiding a deeper deterioration in U.S.-Russian ties and preserving some room for cooperation.

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“My bottom line is this: There is an interest in the United States to work with Russia. We should and we will,” Biden said in remarks to the press.

But “when Russia seeks to violate the interests of the United States, we will respond,” he said. “I was clear with President Putin that we could have gone further, but I chose not to do so. I chose to be proportionate.”

Russia said Washington’s actions contradicted a stated U.S. desire to normalize relations with Moscow. The sanctions are hostile steps that heighten the countries’ confrontation, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.

Among his moves, Biden signed an executive order authorizing the U.S. government to impose sanctions on any area of the Russian economy and used it to restrict Russia’s ability to issue sovereign debt to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2020 U.S. election.

From June 14, Biden barred US financial institutions from participating in the primary market for rouble-denominated Russian sovereign bonds. After 2019, US banks have been barred from participating in the primary market for non-rouble sovereign bonds.

Russian and American flags fly over Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow, Russia, on April 11, 2017. Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

He did not, however, bar them from purchasing such debt in the secondary market, a move that is expected to have a much more drastic impact on the Russian bond and currency markets, which plummeted as reports of the sanctions spread before restoring some of their losses.

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The Treasury also blacklisted 32 entities and individuals that it said had carried out Russian government-directed attempts to influence the 2020 presidential election and other “acts of disinformation and interference.”


In concert with the European Union, Britain, Australia and Canada, the Treasury also put sanctions on eight individuals associated with Moscow’s occupation of Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The White House said it was expelling 10 Russian diplomats in Washington, including representatives of the Russian intelligence services, and for the first time, formally named the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) as the perpetrator of the SolarWinds hack. The agency said the allegations were “nonsense” and “windbaggery.”

The U.S. government plans a new executive order to strengthen its cybersecurity, a U.S. official told reporters, suggesting it could include such elements as encryption and multifactor authentication.

The White House also said that it will respond to reports that Russia offered bribes to Taliban-linked militants in return for the deaths of US soldiers in Afghanistan. According to the survey, US intelligence agencies have “low-to-moderate” interest in such findings, in part because they rely on sometimes untrustworthy information from detainees.

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Russia has long denied claims that it put bounties on US soldiers in Afghanistan.

Andrew Weiss, a think tank researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was pessimistic that US sanctions would change a “largely competitive and adversarial relationship” in the short term or discourage Russia in the long term.

“I’d be surprised if today’s very calibrated announcements by the Biden administration materially shift the relationship in either direction,” he said, saying Russia was willing to cooperate on some issues but there was unlikely ever to be a meeting of the minds on Ukraine or election interference.

“I don’t think it’s realistic to expect the new sanctions will shift Russia’s risk calculus in a fundamental fashion,” he added. “It’s to be expected that the Russians will keep probing and testing our resolve.”


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