State Dept.: Prior Sanctions Worked, But Russia Found Ways to Evade Them ‘Over the Last Six Months’

During an interview aired on Friday’s “PBS NewsHour,” Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland responded to a question about whether the new set of sanctions on Russia it announced today is an admission that prior sanctions weren’t effective by stating that prior sanctions have worked, but “over the last six months,” Russia has figured out how to evade sanctions and that the newest round of sanctions are in part because “we’ve got to staunch this evasion” of sanctions.

Co-host Geoff Bennett asked, “President Biden today announced more than 500 sanctions on Russia. This is the largest tranche since the conflict started. Is this a tacit admission that the previous sanctions haven’t worked, what with Russia’s military-industrial complex up and running and seemingly drawing on limitless supplies and support from its authoritarian allies?”

Nuland responded, “Well, let me start with your premise, Geoff, that previous sanctions haven’t worked. Russia has become a pariah state around the world, thrown out of the international banking system, and now, so desperate for weapons that it has to go to countries like Iran and North Korea to get them. But those Russians are wily, and they have, over the last six months, found ways to evade sanctions, but we have also got smarter about how to hurt them, and that’s why this package is so massive. It looks at punishing sanctions evaders. It looks at closing down further Russia’s access to credit and finance. It also punishes for the death of the leading opposition figure, Navalny, at the hands of Putin and his prison guards, and it sanctions those involved in the abduction of Ukrainian children into Russia. So, it is a massive package, and partly, it’s because we’ve got to staunch this evasion and because we have far more targets now, as we understand better how to staunch the Russian industrial complex.”

Bennett then asked, “Why should it, though, take an event like the death of Alexei Navalny to prompt these types of sanctions? Couldn’t some of this have happened two years ago, at least to stop the flow of technology into Russia’s military-industrial complex that goes into building the kinds of missiles that kill Ukrainians?”

Nuland answered, “Geoff, we did sanction technology from around the world as — two years ago, just before and after the invasion. What has happened is that Russia has found ways to evade those sanctions, going to third markets or buying, for example, a billion washing machines, and then taking out the computer chips that we’ve denied them in other ways. So, this is a tightening of those sanctions as Russia adjusts, and we’re confident that they’re going to have a very profound impact. But the other thing that’s happening, and this is quite worrying, is that Russia has been willing to intensify its economic and security relationship with China, in fact, becoming increasingly dependent on China. And that is how it is fueling its war machine. It’s also been willing to put the vast majority of its own economic stimulus into the war effort, so it is starving Russia and Russians of investment in education, in their own future, all in service of Putin’s imperial ambitions. So, what we’re having to do is adjust as well.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett


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