From Obama To Biden: The Startling Evolution of American Sanctions Against Russia
By-David Reavill–April 3, 2023
From Obama To Biden: The Evolution Of American Sanctions Against Russia
by David Reavill
In researching a future article on the impact of the Russian Sanctions on Global Trade, I began by examining the history of the American Sanctions. What I found was so startling that I wanted to share it with you.
On February 21, 2022, President Biden signed Executive Order # 14055, the first of several “sanctions” against Russia by the Biden Administration. But in many ways, this was not the start of sanctions. It was only the culmination.
Our story began six years before, on December 28, 2016, just a month after the historic election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. As we all know, Trump won that election, much to the dismay of his opponents, including President Obama. One can only imagine what was going through the retiring President’s mind. But motivation aside, Obama took out his Presidential Pen one more time to sign Executive Order # 13757.
In the Executive Order, Obama leverages an EO he signed the year before, which provided for confiscating the property of anyone who committed “malicious cyber-enabled activities.” (Prior EO #13694).
At the same time, Obama ordered the US Intelligence Agencies to investigate Russian interference in the just-completed election two weeks before signing this Executive Order. Apparently, Obama suspected Russia of interfering in the election using the internet. And Executive Order #13757 was his response.
But by signing this EO, the Chief Executive of the Nation was institutionalizing that, indeed, there was interference, from his perspective, of the election. And we all know where this went from there. This is the thin thread upon which all the investigations and, ultimately, the impeachment of President Trump came from.
However, another thread came from Executive Order #13757, which would appear six years later.
Now, it’s easy to assume that Executive Orders are merely pieces of history. Remember, Executive Orders expire when the term of the President who signed them is over. Obama’s EOs faded when he left office in January 2017. But as President Trump found out, Executive Orders can establish a precedent. And it was just such a precedent that Joe Biden picked up in February last year.
On February 21, 2022, Biden took out his own Presidential Pen and signed Executive Order #14065. This EO was Biden’s response to Russia’s recognizing Donetsk and Luhansk, together called the Donbas Region of Ukraine, as independent.
A majority of the people who occupy this region are ethnic Russians. For years, these people had complained of Ukraine forces’ oppression in the area, particularly the Azov Battalion, an independent para-military group with Nazi sympathies. (Their founder Stepan Bandera fought with the Nazis in World War II.)
The new Biden Executive Order followed right in line with Obama’s. However, this time Russia was merely guilty of recognizing the independence of two regions of Ukraine, not interfering in an American election. Nonetheless, Russia would have severe economic repercussions imposed by the United States for its actions.
Yes, you read the date of Biden’s EO Correctly. President Biden signed his EO providing for Russian Sanctions on February 21, 2022, three days before Russian troops entered Ukraine on February 24, 2022. So, when the Biden Sanctions took force, the only “crime” that Russia was guilty of was recognizing two break-away republics.
And lest you think these first sanctions were inconsequential, current estimates are that the US and European Union have seized nearly $400 Billion in Russian financial assets held in the West. We know that $330 Billion in Russian sovereign funds were confiscated along with all the investments held by certain Russian “oligarchs.”
On February 24, 2022, Russian troops crossed the border in Ukraine, and the Special Military Operation began. President Biden signed yet another EO two weeks later, banning all Russian Oil and Gas imports. At nearly the same time, central Russian Banks were prohibited from using the SWIFT System for International financial transactions.
The Germans, in particular, did not favor removing Russia from Swift. After all, this was how Germany purchased that cheap Russian Natural Gas, which supplied nearly half of Germany’s energy. But in the end, Germany conceded, and the Russians were indeed barred from SWIFT.
In the intervening year, the European Union and America have instituted more and more sanctions and various permutations, including “price caps” on Russian oil transported by sea.
As a US State Department spokesperson said at the beginning of the process, the collective West was instituting “economic shock and awe” against Russia. The State Department and others in the Administration assumed that these actions would devastate the Russian economy and their ability to continue the war. Initial estimates were that the Sanctions would cause the Russian economy to fall by 20% or more.
Indeed the Sanctions have had an effect, but not nearly what the Administration predicted. Last year Russian GDP fell by less than 3%. The loss of European gas purchases through the Nordstream Pipeline did hurt, no question. But as the months have worn on, Russia is getting new customers for their petroleum and building new alliances with principally the BRICS countries. These moves have helped Russia maintain its economic vitality.
While much of the “costs” of the sanctions have hurt the Western Countries who initiated them, Germany, in particular, has seen escalating expenses for their industrial sector. Eliminating Russian natural gas is a genuine threat to all of German manufacturing.
In fact, with the loss of Russian-supplied oil and gas, higher energy prices have been a key factor in igniting global inflation.
But most surprising of all, Russia has seen several countries, especially China and India, come to their support. Just last week, Xi Jinping was feted to a full State Visit by Vladimir Putin. The two men came away from that meeting expressing their mutual friendship and promising military and economic support.
The effort by the Biden Administration to make Russia a pariah state, shunned by the rest of the world, is failing. Instead, a new multi-polar world is emerging, with Russia at its center.
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