The State, Treasury and Commerce departments are ramping up to implement an Aug. 1 executive order from President Donald Trump that imposes a second round of sanctions against Russia.
The sanctions, which are in response to Russia’s alleged role in using a nerve agent to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia Skripal in the United Kingdom on March 4, 2018, specifically target exports and financial transactions that could be used for Russia’s chemical and biological weapons development.
President Trump promulgated the executive order under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act and the 1991 Chemical and Biological Weapons (CBW) Control and Warfare Elimination Act.
In a July 25 letter, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and ranking member Michael McCaul, R-Texas, urged President Trump to implement another round of sanctions against Russia for the U.K. nerve agent attack under the CBW Act.
“While the CBW Act was designed to give the executive branch appropriate flexibility to craft the sanctions measures applied in each case, failure by the administration to respond to Russia’s unabashed aggression is unacceptable and would necessitate that Congress take corrective action,” the congressmen said.
Under the sanctions, which are expected to take effect around Aug. 19, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control will prohibit U.S. bank loans to Russia, with the exception of those related to food or agricultural commodity purchases, and oppose multilateral development bank assistance to Russia.
The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security will apply a “presumption of denial” on licenses for U.S. exports to Russia of “dual-use” chemical and biological items. (Dual-use items are defined as having both commercial and military applications.)
The State Department said, like the first round of sanctions against Russia related to the poison attack in August 2018, “exceptions to the Department of Commerce export licensing requirements will continue to be available for U.S. firms fulfilling existing contracts with Russian customers.”
The State Department added that Commerce Department, however, will consider the following export license requests on a case-by-case basis:
• Exports required for space flight activities, including those related to government space cooperation and commercial space launches;
• Exports related to civil aviation;
• Exports to commercial end users in Russia for civil end uses;
• Exports to U.S. subsidiaries and foreign companies in Russia;
• And deemed export licenses for Russian nationals working in the U.S.
Even with the export license exceptions, the State Department expects this second round of sanctions “could curtail Russia’s access to billions of dollars of bilateral commercial activity with the United States.”
The sanctions must remain in place for at least 12 months and will only be lifted if the Trump administration determines and certifies to Congress that Russia has made “reliable assurances” that it’s not making or planning to use these chemical weapons in the future, has allowed international inspectors to verify those claims and has paid restitution to those harmed by the nerve agent attack in the U.K.
The Trump administration’s executive order was applauded by the British government, which blamed Russian intelligence agents for carrying out the poisoning attack. In addition to the Skripals, a British police officer and two civilians, one of whom subsequently died, were exposed to the nerve agent.
“Continued global response shows we will not stand & watch these horrific weapons be used without consequences,” tweeted U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Aug. 3.