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New sanctions on Russia for ‘election hacking’

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The US has slapped new sanctions on Russia. The move is justified in Washington as retaliation against what the United States says is ‘election hacking’ by the Russian government.

19 Russian individuals have been sanctioned in addition to five ‘groups’. These groups include Russian intelligence services i.e. the Federal Security Service (FSS) and the Main Intelligence Service (GRU). 6 individuals working for Russian intelligence services have also been sanctioned.

Read more: Trump signs Russia sanctions bill, but spits at it

What these sanctions entail is the blocking of all parties that is subject to US jurisdiction. Furthermore, American citizens can’t engage in transactions with sanctioned individuals and groups. A statement by the US Treasury department said that Russian hackers, since 2016, “have also targeted US government entities and multiple US critical infrastructure sectors, including the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors.” Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin said that there would be additional sanctions against Russian government officials for their ‘destabilizing activities’.

Russia is not the only country that the US has imposed sanctions against. Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Iraq and Cuba among others have also had sanctions imposed on them by the US. Sanctioning literally means ‘penalizing’ if some law or rule is broken by someone. In international affairs, countries may impose sanctions on other countries with whom they have tense relations with.

There are several types of sanctions. A country may order diplomats from rival nations to leave or simply reduce diplomatic presence. Sanctions can be economic in nature. Imposing economic sanctions is a tool that is often used by the US to coerce other states to change behavior in accordance with American interests. Finally, sanctions can also be imposed by the UN against member states that oppose or violate international norms. Washington has used its diplomatic heft at the UNSC to convince members of the Security Council to collectively sanction the North Korean regime and individuals from North Korea. Previously, the UN sanctioned the apartheid regime in South Africa too.

Economic sanctions may also include trade barriers, restrictions in financial transactions or tariffs etc.

When economic sanctions are imposed by the US against countries like Iran or North Korea, their economies suffer. What happens is that the Treasury department in America forces businesses to either deal with the US or the country that has been sanctioned. Since the US has the largest economy in the world, as well the largest consumer market, it makes sense for companies and individuals to disengage from North Korea or Iran and continue doing business in the United States.

On the other hand, if these businesses and individuals continue to engage in businesses with the sanctioned country, they can’t do any commercial activity within the US and this is bad for business, ultimately. Economic sanctions may also include trade barriers, restrictions in financial transactions or tariffs etc.

Read more: Russia: The new master of Middle East

The US is not the only country that has enacted sanctions against rivals. The Soviet Union did so too-against Albania, China and Yugoslavia. Russia also sanctioned Ukraine, by withholding the export of hydrocarbons that the Ukrainian economy relies on. There was a dispute over pricing between Kiev and Moscow and Russia ultimately reacted by sanctioning.

America has prohibited its citizens from engaging in transaction with Russian individuals and groups as a penalty for what it sees as meddling in the elections by those individuals. Former FBI Director James Comey, in a session lasting over three hours in Congress, testified that the orders for meddling in the 2016 Presidential election came directly from the Kremlin. In other words, Vladimir Putin knew about and perhaps directed the effort. The term ‘election hacking’ is also used. US officials maintain that an army of bots and trolls in Russia made a concerted disinformation, comprising fake news, facebook ads and inflammatory social media posts throughout the election race.

The purpose was to tilt the results of the election in Donald Trump’s favor. Several other law enforcement agencies in the US also corroborate Comey’s claims. Whether or not Trump knew about it is an open question. He maintains Russia had nothing to do with his campaign. An investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is underway to confirm the extent and the effect of Russian involvement in the election. A number of American senators, including Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, have said that Russia had violated the sanctity of American democracy.

Read more: Russia still US’s number one enemy

The Kremlin vehemently denies these accusations. In an interview with Fox News Host Megan Kelly, Vladimir Putin was asked about Moscow’s role in the election meddling, to which he replied,” Read my lips. NO.” It is interesting to note how Washington is sensitive to foreign interference in its electoral process when the US itself is guilty of the same crime innumerable times. Various regimes have been overthrown via clandestine actions by America’s Central Intelligence Agency. The so-called Colour Revolutions in countries on Russia’s Western Border were also funded and supported by the West in general and the US in particular. These color revolutions were an attempt to change governments.

Platforms like Facebook don’t usually prohibit people from funding ads. There are general guidelines that are meant to be ethical guidelines more than anything else. After pressure from Western governments, however, Facebook has launched an investigation into fake news spreading across its platform. An inquiry into fake news has also been launched in the United Kingdom as well.

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Even though Trump promised to improve relations with Russia during his campaign, the ‘establishment’, as it were, seems to disagree. Congress has been pushing for renewed sanctions against Russia and Trump has also toned down his rhetoric of how great a leader Vladimir Putin is. Under the circumstance, the future of US-Russia relations does not appear to be bright.

1 COMMENT

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