The limits of economic sanctions
The Democrats and news media screamed "collusion" when the Trump Administration declined to impose new Russian sanctions, but you probably didn't hear the actual reasons why Trump said "no".
The U.S. Treasury Department said in a report submitted to Congress this week that expanding sanctions on Russia to include new sovereign debt would have “negative spillover effects” on global financial markets and businesses.
Russia doesn't carry much debt, which is why the sanctions aren't having a big impact. But if they are locked out of the debt markets then the West will never have economic leverage on Russia.
A new law meant to punish Russia for election interference could force the Trump administration to sanction some of its closest allies -- including Saudi Arabia and India -- a possibility that has put capitals worldwide on edge.
The dilemma shows how Moscow's election malfeasance is deepening Washington's acrimony, complicating US foreign policy, and could ultimately force some allies to choose between the White House and the Kremlin, at a time when Russia is aggressively expanding its influence, particularly in the Middle East.
The Trump administration didn't levy a single sanction on January 29, the first day it could have under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. That day, anyone doing business with certain Russian intelligence and military entities, including arms manufacturers, faced possible penalties.
The client list of these blacklisted Russian entities includes US counterterrorism partners such as Morocco, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. Qatar is a Russian customer, as well as crucial NATO ally Turkey.
The U.S. has been losing influence in the world since 2003. If we start punishing our allies we could end up having no influence at all, except as a military bully.
That doesn't work very well with "allies".
The US's top negotiator in Ukraine suggested Wednesday the four-year-old conflict in the country's eastern regions no longer makes headlines because many European countries would like to improve their relationship with Russia.
"Honestly, I think a lot of European governments don't want this to be a permanent obstacle to dealing with Russia," Ambassador Kurt Volker told DW in response to a question about why the conflict had been "forgotten."
"They're unhappy with Russia's actions, they're not happy with the invasion, they put in place sanctions but they don't want that to be permanent. And so they would like to see this to go away."
If we continue to push this, Europe will simply stop cooperating. The sanctions cost them a lot more than they cost us.
If they drop the sanctions then we end up looking weak.
Then there is the fact that after a while the sanctions do nothing but make you look petty. Consider our sanctions on North Korea.
North Korea is forbidden, by UN sanctions, from buying hockey sticks, because they’re “recreational sporting equipment.” In past events, North Korean participants have had to borrow all sticks, and return them before leaving.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. North Korea also has to find a third party to supply uniforms for them, because the uniform sponsor, Nike, is afraid that doing business with them will violate US sanctions.
But the real kicker is that the politicians in Washington that are screaming "collusion" don't actually want to reform anything.
Consider this headline: Russians penetrated US voter systems, DHS cybersecurity chief tells NBC
After reading that is your first response "Let's sanction Russia"?
Only if you are a politician, because for normal people the first reaction would be to fix our voting system.
But that would assume the threat to our voting system is real, and not some fictional one created for political advantage. Which is why we still lack a serious push to get rid of hackable voting machines and go back to pencil and paper.
That's why you end up with more Russians believing that Washington is meddling in their politics than Americans who say the same about Russian interference in U.S. politics.