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What are the US sanctions on Russia? | VERIFY

President Biden announced economic sanctions such as restrictions on Russian banks and new U.S. investments in response to President Putin's attack in Ukraine
Credit: AP Photos/Alex Brandon and Yuri Kochetkov/Pool Photo via AP, File
On the left: President Joe Biden speaks about the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) On the right: FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 1, 2022. (Yuri Kochetkov/Pool Photo via AP, File)

WASHINGTON — President Biden announced harsher sanctions on Russian elites, banks and the country's economy on Thursday, following Russia's invasion and attack on Ukraine. 

These sanctions double down on ones the President announced on Tuesday— before Russia's invasion. Sanctions remain one of the most effective ways to deter action, short of military action, which President Biden says is not on the table. 

“Our forces are not and will not be engaged in the conflict with Russia in Ukraine,” President Biden said Thursday. "Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine but to defend our NATO Allies and reassure those Allies in the east."

Instead, the President said they will strike Putin economically.

So what exactly are economic 'sanctions?'

In a nutshell, sanctions are financial penalties put on a government, its businesses or people, typically to deter behavior or policies.

"They basically mean you can't do what you thought you can do this morning," Doug Rediker, a non-resident senior fellow at Brookings Institute, said.

It's a way to punish someone else for a certain behavior or action.

"Well, the main way for these things to work would be to penalize Russia, to cut it off from the global economic system and to limit the flow of high tech equipment going into Russia,” Robert Orttung, research professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University, said.

What that means is the U.S. can restrict others from selling any product to Russia that includes a piece made in the U.S., including technology, Rediker explained. 

The Biden Administration plans to use this power under the Export Controls Act. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced the plans Thursday.

"[Bureau of Industry and Security's] Russia-specific export control measures impose a policy of denial on sensitive items Moscow relies on for its defense, aerospace, and maritime industries," the agency wrote. "These items, many of which were not previously subject to controls when destined for Russia, include semiconductors, computers, telecommunications, information security equipment, lasers, and sensors."

"We're not saying Russia, you can't buy it; we're saying to everybody, you can't sell it," Rediker said. "And the issue is, we the U.S. have effectively a monopoly on all of the high tech software chips or semiconductors that go into, kind of everything."

Either Congress, through legislation, or the President, through executive orders, can create a sanction. Rediker explained legislative sanctions are harder to rescind and therefore, may stay in place longer

“You send your kid into the corner because he or she wasn't good," he said. "You don't necessarily want to leave them there for the next five years. But if you're distracted, you're in the kitchen, you're cooking dinner, you go to work the next day, you just don't get around to telling the kid he can leave the corner. That's not healthy for you or the kid.”

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William Courtney was a U.S. ambassador in Kazakhstan, Georgia, and to the U.S Soviet nuclear testing commission, in the 90s. He said sanctions are the middle ground between normal diplomacy and war.

"The purpose is to induce changes in behavior, and sometimes you can't change the behavior, but at least you can raise the cost to carrying out that behavior," Courtney, who is currently an adjunct Senior Fellow at RAND Corporation, said.

The President’s latest sanctions include restrictions on Russian banks, Russia’s elites, use of the U.S. dollar in international transactions and new money from U.S. investors.

"What we've seen is that most companies fear losing access to US markets and things like that, so there are strong consequences for violating the sanctions,” Orttung said.

Kicking Russia off of SWIFT, an international banking system, and personally sanctioning President Putin are additional cards President Biden could play; however, for now, he said he won't.

"The sanctions that we have proposed on all their banks is of equal consequence — maybe more consequence than SWIFT — number one," President Biden said Thursday. "Number two, it is always an option.  But right now, that’s not the position that the rest of Europe wishes to take."

Our experts said the U.S. sanctions carry greater clout given they have formed a united front with others like Japan, Australia and the European Union, which have greater economic ties with Russia than the U.S.

"Sanctions are more effective if they are multilateral, so there are no outs a targeted person or a targeted entity can use," Courtney said.

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