A new package of sanctions is needed by the US for pressure not only on Russia, but also on Europe.
Perhaps the most interesting thing in the new package of anti-Russian sanctions, approved by the US Senate, is the very title - "The Law on Counteracting Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia." Usually sanctions are imposed to force the state to change something in its policy: thus, the Jackson-Vanik amendment was aimed at discouraging the USSR from hindering the emigration of Jews. In the case of the new law, it turns out that Washington does not achieve any goal, but simply punishes Russia. And since "influence in Europe and Eurasia" is an ephemeral concept and difficult to measure, it will be extremely difficult to find an excuse for lifting sanctions. And it is unlikely that the US will look for it - it is too useful this sanction package for them when building a dialogue with European partners.
While Donald Trump represented the United States on the first international tour, work was in full swing in the committees of the Senate. They managed to "get married" bills of Republicans and Democrats, and 14 June 97 with the votes "for" and only two "against" were adopted amendments to the law on Iranian sanctions. These amendments are a new anti-Russian package. They can also be called the first significant victory for US lawmakers since the inauguration of Trump.
The Capitol house of cards came to this revenge systematically: the merger of the two bills and alignment with Iran allowed to gain support from both parties and to tie the hands to the president in advance. As for the veto, now you can not worry: it costs two thirds of the vote, and in the Senate on this issue almost a consensus. In addition, the scale of media noise when vetting such a law is even difficult to imagine. Yes, and it will not come to veto. The inclusion of an anti-Russian package in a large Iranian issue poses a simple question for the White House: you want to increase pressure on Tehran - and the Trump administration is ardent and open about it, - please, Mr. President, likewise do the same with Moscow.
American lawmakers from this initiative so far have some advantages: an effective lever of pressure on Trump, a resource for bargaining with Europeans (who began to say that it's time for them to take their destiny into their own hands) and Asian countries (in general, welcomed the Russian turn to the East) , As well as a demonstration to voters that hawks may not only be members of the Trump team.
Therefore, the new sanctions directly affect not only the Russian gas industry, but also the alignment of forces in the American elite. Previously, sanctions were traditionally a presidential zone of responsibility, and Congress only strengthened the existing norms - basically, adhering to internal interests in the struggle for the voter. The real mechanism for the implementation of sanctions passes through the executive branch, mainly through the Treasury. There is no mechanism for public evaluation of the effectiveness of sanctions campaigns, there are examples of one-on-one discussions in the relevant committees of the Congress - but no more. A new bill that runs counter to Trump's early statements about the dangers of anti-Russian sanctions is an attempt by Congress to at least partially intercept control over this instrument of US foreign policy. The question is how zealously the Treasury will monitor the implementation of the new sanction law.
It is important to understand how the American sanitary kitchen works. When there are black lists of individuals and companies, the Treasury uses all the technical capabilities to track transactions with these people and companies through the Fed and SWIFT. Working mechanisms for effective tracking of transactions with "industries" and "any persons and companies that invested more than 10 million US dollars", the Treasury does not. Therefore, the bill contains a paragraph on the need for a six-month period to conduct a detailed study of the Russian elite, its assets, affiliated companies, and close associates. This public list should become a roadmap for the Treasury - which transactions to hunt. Otherwise, it is possible to forget about effective supervision of the implementation of the new bill.
Senators raised rates
In addition to certain sectoral measures, the bill suggests a number of long-term consequences for Russia and for other countries.
First, the issue of anti-Russian sanctions is transferred from the exclusive competence of the president to the almost complete competence of the Congress - without his approval, most sanctions can not be lifted. And the US congressmen are far less likely to reload relations with Russia than the US presidents. The 38-year history of the Jackson-Vanik amendment (abolished in respect of Russia only in 2012 year) is vividly confirmed. Thus, the new bill will concretize the anti-Russian vector of American foreign policy for a long time.
Moreover, the specific wording of the law makes it virtually unchangeable. So, it is completely unclear how the congressmen will ever admit that Russia no longer has "influence in Europe and Eurasia" (and this is an exact citation from the justification of the new law). And without such recognition, sanctions can not be abolished.
Secondly, informal sanctions, which have been effective against a number of Russian companies since 2014, are becoming formal and expanding. Henceforth, not only a fixed black sanctions list of individuals and companies, but also sub-category "categories": for example, state companies in the field of metallurgy or the gas industry.
Thirdly, the law describes the possibilities of applying sanctions, but does not make specific types of punishment mandatory. This is a tangible trump card for Washington in relations with European, and any other countries that want to pursue their own policy along the Russian lines.
More sanctions - more deals
It was worth Rex Tillerson to complain a few days ago that all allies are asking about improving relations with Russia, as the Capitol found consolation for the Secretary of State - a threat to apply extensive sanctions already against the Allies themselves. Sanctions against Russia on the Iranian model are indirect sanctions against all sympathizers of Moscow or even those who are not partial to Russian gas. That is why Germany and Austria immediately acted with such a sharp reaction against American sanctions, although even at the beginning of the week Berlin, in the person of Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, called for negotiations with Moscow from the position of strength. With Moscow, but, as it turned out, not with Berlin.
In the event of the adoption of the law, the fate of those individuals and companies that by their actions will fall under its influence will be determined by the president of the United States - it is in his competence to choose specific penalties. In the law, this is elegantly reflected with the help of the modal verb "can" in terms of determining penalties for violation of the US sanctions regime.
Here for this modality and after the adoption of the law viscous negotiations between the US and other countries will be conducted. After all, according to the bill, the US president can issue an executive order and turn off Gazprom's European partner in the Nord Stream project from the American financial system (that is, from 96 percent of dollar transactions). Or maybe not to disconnect. The question is what US partners are ready for in order for Washington to be merciful. These opportunities can make the new law attractive in the eyes of Trump - after all, there is wide open space for the deals he so much like.
The fact that the US will go to the deals can be predicted from the experience of Iran, in respect of which similar legislation is applied with 1990. The Norwegians, Chinese, Koreans, Swedes, Italians and Japanese invested in the Iranian oil and gas industry already during the Iranian sanctions act (a new anti-Russian package is close to it) billions of dollars and did not fall into the black lists of the Treasury. Without the UN sanctions for an increased commission or attractive market, virtually any corporation, including the world's largest transnational (TNCs), was ready to participate in sanctions or potentially sanctions projects in Iran. At the same time, such TNCs had enough lobbying opportunities to continue to conduct business in the United States along with Iranian projects, receiving funds from the US budget as part of the implementation of federal contracts. According to indirect estimates, in 2000 more than 70 European, American and Asian corporations successfully combined in their work the Iranian and American directions. Although today the US certainly does not like this situation, Washington does not have absolutely effective measures to eliminate it.
Moreover, one can expect that the more the US extends its extraterritorial legislation to third countries, that is, to make China or a separate European country interested in at least sectoral cooperation with Russia, a hostage to its own foreign policy, the greater will be the opposition. First and foremost, through greater diversity in the international financial system - the main field for today's US sanctions.
For the main addressee of the new sanctions, Russia, the law, if it is adopted in its present form, will consolidate the "certainty of the intentions" of the American establishment for years to come. Sanctions - this is not a reactive measure, which can be lifted up vagally enough (as many in Russia hoped after Trump's election). Sanctionary regime on the part of the United States for the coming decades already at the legislative level will become a structural condition for Russian foreign policy and foreign economic activity.