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US freezes hundreds of millions of dollars in Russian assets, Treasury Dept. says

A view of the North entrance of the U.S. Treasury Building in Washington D.C. (Sealy j/Wikimedia Commons)
August 21, 2018

A new statement from the United States Treasury Department has revealed the breadth of many sanctions and countermeasures enacted against Russia in recent years.

Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Sigal Mandelker spoke before Congress on Tuesday, during which she said hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of Russian assets have been frozen in a broad sanctions effort against Russia, RT News reported Tuesday. A transcript of her speech can be read here.

“We are increasing financial pressure on Russia to advance our national security priorities while simultaneously mitigating unnecessary impacts on the United States, our European allies, and the global economy,” Mandelker said.

“We have imposed major costs on Russia,” she continued. “Treasury’s actions have caused extensive consequences to the financial interests of targeted individuals and entities, including blocking hundreds of millions of dollars in Russian assets in the United States.”

In April alone, the U.S. carried out the “designation of 38 entities and individuals, including 7 Russian oligarchs and 12 companies they own or control, and a major state-owned Russian weapons trading company and its bank subsidiary.  This action included sanctions against 17 senior Russian government officials, many of whom were appointed to their posts by Putin and hold prominent positions in the Russian government and business community.”

“We have impeded the ability of these actors to access the financial system, reduced the value of their assets, and forced companies to extricate themselves from involvement with designated actors,” Mandelker said.

The net worth of one individual alone declined an estimated $3 billion after the sanctions.

Mandelker noted: “Overall foreign direct investment into Russia has fallen over 5 percent since 2013, with sizeable declines in direct investments from the United States, which have fallen 80 percent since 2013.”

In response to the sanctions, Russia has sold off its U.S. debt, reducing its holdings from $81 billion in March, to just $15 billion in May.

Despite the significance of the sanctions, critics of President Trump are concerned he will lift the sanctions.

In an Oval Office interview with Reuters on Monday, President Trump said he would not be lifting the sanctions unless he saw demonstrably improved behavior from Russia.

“No. I haven’t thought about it. But no, I’m not considering it at all. No. I would consider it if they do something that would be good for us. But I wouldn’t consider it without that. In other words, I wouldn’t consider it, even for a moment,” President Trump said.

“We have a lot of things we can do good for each other. You have Syria. You have Ukraine. You have many other things. I think they would like economic development. And that’s a big thing for them,” he added.

Additional sanctions against Russia are scheduled to be enacted on Wednesday, and are said to be in response to Russian government personnel using nerve agent in a plot to assassinate a former Russian spy and his daughter. The sanctions will prohibit the export of any goods with a national security purpose to Russia.

U.K. foreign affairs secretary Jeremy Hunt is calling on the European Union to join the U.S. in enacting new sanctions against Russia, according to a Tuesday report by The Guardian.

“Today the United Kingdom asks its allies to go further by calling on the European Union to ensure its sanctions against Russia are comprehensive, and that we truly stand shoulder to shoulder with the US,” Hunt said.

The U.K. has praised the U.S.’s sanctions against Russia, which target prominent Russian leaders, and have been significantly harsher than any measures carried out by the EU.