Trump Hits Russia With New Sanctions Over Syria Gas Attack

The Trump administration will impose new sanctions against Russia on Monday for "enabling the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons in civil war", Nikki Haley revealed earlier on Sunday, and the New York Times confirmed later in the day. 

The sanctions, coming shortly after American-led airstrikes against facilities linked to Syria’s chemical weapons, are meant to signal that the United States holds responsible not just the Damascus government of President Bashar al-Assad but also his patrons in Russia and Iran. President Trump has vowed that Syria’s allies will pay a “big price” for permitting his use of poison gas.

The Sanctions, first announced by UN ambassador Nikki Haley, "will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use," said Haley on CBS's Face the Nation Sunday morning. 

I think everyone is going to feel it at this point. I think everyone knows that we sent a strong message and our hope is that they listen to it,” said Haley.

The Monday sanctions will be the third round enacted by the Trump administration against Russia in the past month. In March, the administration imposed sanctions on a series of Russian organizations and individuals over 2016 election meddling and other "malicious cyberattacks." 

In late March, the U.S. State Department warned European corporations that they will likely face penalties if they participate in the construction of Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, on the grounds that "the project undermines energy security in Europe", when in reality Russia has for decades been a quasi-monopolist on European energy supplies and thus has unprecedented leverage over European politics, at least behind the scenes.

As many people know, we oppose the Nord Stream 2 project, the US government does,” said State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert at a Tuesday press briefing. “We believe that the Nord Stream 2 project would undermine Europe's overall energy security and stability. It would provide Russia [with] another tool to pressure European countries, especially countries such as Ukraine.”

Last week, the Trump administration slapped sanctions on seven of Russia's richest men and 17 top Kremlin officials over election interference and other Russian aggressions. 

Effectively, the action prevents the oligarchs from traveling to the United States or doing business or even opening a bank account with any major company or bank in the West. It also restricts foreign individuals from facilitating transactions on their behalf. -NYT

Former Obama Admin sanctions official Elizabeth Rosenberg called the penalties as "fairly muscular," and predicted more to come. 

The list is an assault on one of the oligarchs’ favored tools for avoiding sanctions, which is to pass assets to their children.

It targeted the oil executive Igor Rotenberg, the son of Arkady Rotenberg, who is a former judo partner of Mr. Putin and whose companies have won a host of state contracts, including one for the construction of a bridge from the Russian mainland to Crimea, the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula seized by Moscow in 2014.

Also on the list is Oleg V. Deripaska, who once had close ties to Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Altogether, the Trump administration targeted seven oligarchs, 12 companies they own or control, 17 Russian government officials and a state-owned arms export company. -NYT

The Trump administration also expelled 60 Russian diplomats and intelligence officers, closing the Russian consulate in Seattle after the poisoning of former Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal, in Salisbury UK (except, oh my, a Swiss lab says the "BZ toxin" used in the poisoning came from the US or the UK)

Meanwhile, U.S. strikes against Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack in the city of Douma were said to have been designed specifically to avoid striking Russian targets and provoking a response. 

By hitting just three targets and limiting the attack to a single night, the Trump administration seemed to keep it limited enough not to compel Moscow to lash back.

But Ms. Haley said the administration was determined to make Moscow pay a price for supporting Mr. Assad, noting that it had vetoed six United Nations resolutions related to Syria and chemical weapons. -NYT

“Assad knew that Russia had its back,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”“Assad knew that Russia would cover for him at the United Nations and Assad got reckless and he used it in a way that was far more aggressive.”