February 18, 2019

US to impose a new set of sanctions on Russia over the Skripal case

By Guido Lanfranchi.

In compliance with the CBW Act provisions, the US is set to impose a new round of sanctions on Russia over its alleged involvement in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal. The sanctions, which are expected to take full effect around August 22nd, include severe restrictions on the export of national security sensitive goods and technologies.


Five months after the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, the US administration is set to impose sanctions on the Russian Federation, on account of its alleged involvement in the attack. This round of sanctions – a Senior US State Department Official explained – have been imposed by the administration following the procedure set by the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act (CBW Act) of 1991.

Under the CBW Act, the US administration is required to impose sanctions on a state that has been held responsible for a chemical or biological weapons attack. A few days after the Skripal attack – a Senior US State Department Official says – the US received information from the British government, which claimed that Novichok gas had been used in the attack, and that the Russian government was behind it. US experts soon confirmed these evaluations, thus triggering the CBW Act procedure.

As a result of this procedure, the US is currently targeting the Russian Federation with a new round of sanctions, which are set to take effect as of August 22nd approximately. The main measure included in this package – the Official explained – is the imposition of a so-called “presumption of denial” for national security sensitive goods and technologies exported to Russian state-owned or state-funded companies. This means that licenses to export such goods to Russia will be presumptively denied by the US administration, thus negatively affecting US-Russia bilateral trade in a number of sectors.

President Vladimir Putin.

Although the measures are expected to be far-ranging, the US administration has carefully elaborated a set of carve-outs and waivers, which are aimed at protecting US security and economic interests from the sanctions’ effects. In particular – the Official explained – the waivers will shield US foreign assistance programs, some civil aviation issues, as well as US companies operating in Russia and Russians nationals employed by US firms.

The current round of sanctions is set to remain in place for at least 12 months, after which the measures should be removed in case Russia has complied with a set of requirements, carefully listed in the CBW Act. Such requirements include that Russia should: not use anymore any chemical weapon; assure that it won’t use such weapons in the future; and allow on-site inspections from independent observers.

Moreover, a Senior US State Department Official stressed – if Russia will not comply with such requests in a three months time, the CBW Act requires the US to impose a second round of sanctions, usually set to be more draconian than the first. Such sanctions might include restrictions on assistance from International Financial Institutions to Russia, as well as the downgrading of diplomatic relations – the Official said.

In an exchange with journalists in a teleconference, the Official stressed that these sanctions are being imposed as a result of a US-based law. Nonetheless, the US share similar views with its European partners on this issue, as demonstrated by the March 15th joint statement by the US, the UK, France, and Germany in support of the UK assessments.

The aim of this round of US sanctions – the Official concluded – is to provide accountability for the use of chemical weapons, in order to discourage further use of them and to ensure that such episodes will not happen again in the future.


Photography of the White House by David Everett.




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