Home Finance National security expert on sanctioning Russia: 'I question its effectiveness' – Yahoo Finance

National security expert on sanctioning Russia: 'I question its effectiveness' – Yahoo Finance

National security expert on sanctioning Russia: 'I question its effectiveness' – Yahoo Finance

President Joe Biden announced a second round of “strong” and “profound” economic sanctions against Russia on Thursday after the country's brazen invasion of its neighbor, Ukraine.
Experts question the effectiveness of meting out the types of economic punishments now issued against Russia, noting that the country may find ways to work around them and that sanctions have done little to curb President Vladimir Putin's actions in the past. Moreover, Russia has the support of the world's second-largest economy by GDP, China.
Ahead of Biden’s announcement Thursday, Michael Zweiback, a former federal prosecutor who handled national security investigations, told Yahoo Finance that he questions the ability of sanctions to bend Putin to the current will of the U.S. and its allies.
“I question its effectiveness, long term, because this is a Russian president that is well aware of how, and you know, what to do, with respect to sanctions,” Zweiback said. “And they also have the backing of the Chinese government, so that if they need technology, and or resources financially, that they'll get them.”
The new measures block four more major Russian banks from the U.S. financial system including state-backed Sberbank and VTB that together the president said hold more than $1 trillion in assets.
The measures restrict exports to Russia, particularly for technology products that could restrain its future ability to compete in the technology economy. Russian elites and their family members were also added to the sanctions list. Other sanctions limit the country's ability to conduct transactions in dollars, euros, pounds, and yen.
National security experts and lawmakers expressed skepticism after the first round of sanctions, arguing that they were too conservative to influence Putin. That skepticism continued Thursday, despite Biden’s confidence that the sanctions would eventually weaken Russia so significantly that they would force Putin to choose between responding to them, or spiraling Russia into a second-rate power.
The latest sanctions add to those imposed on Tuesday and Wednesday that blocked two major Russia banks from transactions with U.S. financial institutions and targeted a German company responsible for building the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline projected to double Russia's gas deliveries to Germany.
Asked what could stop Putin from further aggression given that Tuesday’s sanctions didn’t keep Russian forces out of Ukraine, Biden told reporters: “No one expected the sanctions to prevent anything from happening. This is going to take time.”
Instead, Biden said Putin would first test the resolve of the West to see if its allies stayed together, and that the impact of the sanctions could be seen in the future.
“They are profound sanctions. Let's have a conversation in another month or so to see if they're working,” Biden said. “The threat of the sanctions and seeing the effect of the sanctions are two different things.”
One key sanctions tool so far left untouched by the U.S. and its allies is blocking Russia from SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, which processes financial messages between banks around the globe. Blunting Russia’s access to the cross-border system could devastate its economy, as it would hamper processing of payments for Russian-produced energy and other goods. Western countries are so far divided on the idea.
United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed for the measure, though Biden said on Thursday that the rest of Europe didn't want to take that position. The president added that the sanctions in place imposed equal or even greater consequences than blocking Russia from SWIFT.
Another possible sanction yet to be imposed is one against Putin's personal assets. Biden on Thursday said the option is "on the table."
Biden’s authority to impose sanctions comes from executive orders issued by then-President Barack Obama in 2014, following Russia's invitations and annexation of Crimea. In 2018, president Trump signed the codified orders into law under the Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act of 2017.
“Typically they go after major institutions, institutions, such as sovereign debt funds, and also projects, as you've seen in this case,” Zweiback said.
Alexis Keenan is a legal reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow Alexis on Twitter @alexiskweed.
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