LOS ANGELES: There’s a popular saying at the State Department: “We don’t have permanent friends. We don’t have permanent enemies. We only have permanent interests.”
Although much as been made about President Trump congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin on his election “win,” the real action happened this week at the Treasury and State Departments. The U.S. (and it had to have had the approval of President Trump) decided to impose sanctions on Russia. That is a far cry from the congratulations.
On Friday, the administration imposed new sanctions on Russia, some of its companies and individuals in the Putin administration. Sanctioned were: seven Russian oligarchs, 12 companies, and 17 Russian officials – a grand total of 38 individuals and companies. Some Russian oligarchs will no longer be allowed to operate without sanctions.
Planning for this has been ongoing for some time, says the government. The oligarchs who were sanctioned are:
Vladimir Bogdanov, who runs Surgutneftegaz, an oil company, and advertises on its English website that it’s responsible for 18 percent of all oil development in Russia.
Oleg Deripaska, who founded the group known as Basic Element (the company was sanctioned as well), is the founder and owner of one of the largest Russian industrial groups that claim to have more than 100 businesses in Russia. He is also known for hiring Paul Manafort.
Suleiman Kerimov is a philanthropist who started the Suleyman Kerimov Foundation. His darker side reveals he was arrested in November for buying properties in France with shell companies. He is also accused of hiding euros. Forbes listed him as one of the world’s 100 richest people. He lost many billions after 2008, but he still has a few billion left.
Igor Rotenberg owns what has been called the largest construction group in Russia. He is known as a judo trainer, and Putin apparently trained with him. He also owns SMP bank and has control of many ATM machines. This is not his first time being sanctioned, as he was also sanctioned by President Obama.
Kirill Shamalov was married to Putin’s daughter. (They are no longer married.) The company he works for and owns part of, Sigur, says on its website that it’s in plastics, feedstocks, and energy as well as other products.
Andrei Skoch reportedly owns the “largest plant for the mining and benefaction of iron ore in Russia, producing high-quality iron ore and raw materials.”
Viktor Vekselberg is the owner of Renova Group, a company with interests in aluminum, oil, energy, telecoms and a variety of other sectors. He is also a member of the Duma, which is the Russian parliament. Bloomberg reports, “The Renova Group is primarily active in Russia, Switzerland, South Africa and the United States.” Its website is still “under construction.”
This list is a good start. I am told by people who do business with Russia that nothing happens in business internationally without the approval of President Putin.
A Friday conference call with press members about the sanctions revealed there are some people who have been investigated for money laundering, as well as companies such as Basic Elements and Gazprom. The U.S. is going after certain Russian officials who run Russian entities.
During the call, they said this is part of larger strategy to sanction people and companies who are responsible for bad decisions made by the Kremlin intended to be destabilizing activities.
There is a message in this: Actions have consequences. These people chose to prop up the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They have tried to subvert democracies.
A better relationship with Russia will only happen when it stops undermining democracy.
We’re told this is not a direct response to the poisoning in England, and these actions have been under consideration for a long time.
This has been coordinated with allies in Europe, and they are aware of the actions that the U.S. is taking. They don’t discuss how they make decisions, such as why Putin is not on this list of people who are sanctioned.
It’s anticipated that there will be an impact in Russia, and we will see the consequences in the future.
As I have said many times, I’m not a Trumper. But it is important to take an objective look at the things he does in his administration. Although I disagree with him, there is no doubt that his administration is supporting international efforts. We should give him credit where credit is due.