Biden administration sanctions Russia, expels diplomats over election interference

The new sanctions are sure to be met with approval by many U.S. lawmakers from both parties, although some are likely to say they do not go far enough. For example, based on the information released by the administration, there did not appear to be any penalties aimed at stopping the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany, a step a number of Democrats and Republicans have urged.

In a statement, the White House characterized the administration’s actions as intended “to impose costs on Russia for actions by its government and intelligence services against U.S. sovereignty and interests.”

The Treasury Department‘s Office of Foreign Assets Control released information on several of the sanctions. The office said that it “took sweeping action against 16 entities and 16 individuals” who sought to influence the outcome of the election last November under orders from Russian government leaders.

“Treasury will target Russian leaders, officials, intelligence services, and their proxies that attempt to interfere in the U.S. electoral process or subvert U.S. democracy,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement. “This is the start of a new U.S. campaign against Russian malign behavior.”

With regard to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, which still claims the Crimea region as its own, OFAC “designated five individuals and three entities” for sanctions. OFAC Director Andrea Gacki said in a statement that the designations would “impose additional costs on Russia for its forceful integration with Crimea and highlight the abuses that have taken place under Russia’s attempted annexation.”

Finally, under the authority of a new executive order signed by Biden on Thursday, the Treasury Department announced a series of punitive measures including “the implementation of new prohibitions on certain dealings in Russian sovereign debt, as well as targeted sanctions on technology companies that support the Russian Intelligence Services’ efforts to carry out malicious cyber activities against the United States.”

In a letter notifying Congress of his executive order, Biden wrote that his directive would declare “a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States posed by specified harmful foreign activities” of the Russian government.

Biden specifically cited Russia’s efforts to “undermine the conduct of “democratic elections and institutions in the U.S. and its allies, its “malicious cyber-enabled activities,” and its use of “transnational corruption to influence foreign governments.”

Other malign behavior mentioned by Biden included the targeting of dissidents and journalists outside Russia, the undermining of security in areas where the U.S. has national security interest, and the violation of international law.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the administration’s actions were intended to hold the Russian government to account” for its alleged SolarWinds espionage campaign, reported bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and attempted interference in the 2020 election.

Blinken announced the State Department is expelling 10 officials from the Russian diplomatic mission in Washington, including personnel who are representatives of Russian intelligence services, according to the White House.

“These actions are intended to hold Russia to account for its reckless actions,” Blinken said. “We will act firmly in response to Russian actions that cause harm to us or our allies and partners. Where possible, the United States will also seek opportunities for cooperation with Russia, with the goal of building a more stable and predictable relationship consistent with U.S. interests.”