A bipartisan team of US senators is preparing to hit Russia with additional sanctions over its 2016 US election interference and military operations in Syria and Ukraine.
Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are spearheading the measure, called the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act, which includes a wide range of financial penalties targeting Russia's energy complex, financial industry and "political figures, oligarchs, and family members and other persons that facilitate illicit and corrupt activities, directly or indirectly, on behalf of Vladimir Putin," reported The Independent.
Threats of the sanctions rocked Russian stock and government bond markets at the end of the week, and the country's debt insurance costs jumped alongside FX volatility.
Moscow has responded to the prospect of new sanctions with anger.
A former minister told Russians to prepare for the worst outcome; the Kremlin accused the US of “racketeering.”
“We see clear symptoms of emotional Russophobia,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told journalists. “But behind the emotions … is an entirely pragmatic, assertive trade calculation, and … nothing less than an attempt to engage in dishonest competition.”
Frants Klintsevich, a member of the Defence and Security Committee of Russia’s upper house, described the new sanctions as a “dangerous habit” similar to “smoking a pipe before breakfast, poisoning all those around."
The head of Russia's largest bank and its former economics minister, Herman Gref, warned that the sanctions could damage the already slowing economy.
"We need to prepare for the very worst of situations,” Gref warned.
The sanction also includes support for NATO, including requiring a two-thirds majority in the Senate for the US to leave the alliance. It includes plans to make it easier to transfer military hardware to NATO countries to reduce their dependences on Russian arms.
The possibility of new sanctions suggests that the US is ready to increase its economic war against Russia. As the global economy rapidly slows in 2019, relations with the US and the rest of the world are at tense levels, the possibility of a geopolitical flare-up is right around the corner.
Should we be looking in the East China Sea or the South China Sea for potential conflicts, or maybe hone in our attention on the Ukraine and Russia border?
Judging by the additional sanctions, all eyes should be on Europe.