Friday, 11 August 2017

Stephen Cohen on Russian sanctions forever

Tales of the New Cold War: US sanctions Russiagate forever

Stephen F. Cohen @nyu@princeton 

PART 1 of 2.

The new law, passed in response to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, tightens some of those limits a bit. For instance, U.S. companies now can’t participate in any energy project in which sanctioned Russian companies are involved. While it allows the president to widen the sweep of sanctions to other industries, which Trump isn’t likely to do, it specifies that any move by Trump (or any future president) to loosen penalties could be blocked by Congress. That means the new sanctions enjoy a similar status to ones that were entrenched under Jackson-Vanik, a 1974 Cold War-era amendment that imposed trade restrictions on the Soviet Union for blocking Jewish emigration. Those sanctions endured for four decades as a symbol of Moscow’s isolation even after the Soviet collapse when U.S. presidents waived its provisions on an annual basis. “Now that the law is signed, it’s completely clear that the situation with sanctions will last a long while,” says Natalia Orlova, chief economist at Alfa Bank in Moscow. “This flavor of sanctions will accompany all business activity with Russia.”

PART 1 of 2.

Tens of thousands of troops are on the move from the Baltic to the Black Sea, as NATO and Russia open up a series of massive military exercises the size of which the continent hasn’t seen since the Cold War.

Both sides claim the drills, which involve aircraft, warships, tanks and artillery, are purely defensive in nature. But it is clear the exercises are also meant to show off new capabilities and technologies, and display not only the strength of alliances, but how swiftly troops and heavy equipment can move to squash a threat at the frontier.

The most ambitious undertaking on the NATO side is Saber Guardian 17, a series of over a dozen distinct battle drills being carried out by 25,000 troops from 20 countries moving across Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

The scenario presented to ground commanders is that a technologically advanced land force has pushed into NATO territory and is threatening the alliance as a whole. The drills include air defense tests, live fire tank engagements, long advances by armored columns, fighter planes and helicopters supporting ground movements, electronic warfare, and airdrops.

Deterrence is about capability, it’s about making sure that any potential adversary knows that we are prepared to do whatever is necessary,” U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges told reporters during the exercise. “What escalates tensions is when we look weak, not connected, not prepared, that is what invites aggression.”

But increasing military capability doesn’t have to mean war, he added. “The Russians only respect strength, so if we demonstrate cohesion, if we demonstrate that we are together, that we are prepared, then I think we don’t have to worry.”
The general’s blunt comments underscore the planning for Saber Guardian, which doesn’t name Russia as the adversary, but clearly has the Kremlin in mind.

The scenario revolves around an incursion into NATO territory by a militarily advanced enemy intent on seizing the economic assets of Black Sea countries. A battle featuring 5,000 NATO troops at the Cincu training range in Romania saw U.S. Apache and Romanian helicopters coordinate with artillery on the ground, U.S. Abrams tanks, and 650 vehicles in support of a large infantry movement to halt the advance.

The U.S. is planning to spend about $23 million on the sprawling Romanian base in order to conduct even larger, more complex battle drills there in the future.

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