The Obama administration's economic sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for its involvement in the Ukrainian conflict may be having the opposite effect.
reports that trade between the United States and Russia actually increased by 17 percent in the three-month period after the first sanctions were imposed March 6.
Based on foreign trade figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, exports from the United States to Russia have shown a steady month-by-month increase.
The administration is preparing tough new sanctions against Russia, adding to those levied this month against Gazprombank, the state-owned financial arm of Russia's natural gas company, and energy companies including Novatek and Rosneft.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., have demanded yet more sanctions from the administration in a letter
to President Barack Obama.
"We strongly urge you to aggressively exercise your authorities under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and other relevant statutes to impose immediate broad sanctions against Russia's defense sector, including state-owned Rosboronexport, in order to prevent Russia from providing weaponry, equipment, or assistance and training to separatists in Ukraine."
Robert Kahn, senior fellow in international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, told McClatchy that the trade figures may indicate Russian stockpiling of U.S. goods in case they won't be able to get them in the future.
Included in the $5.1 billion of U.S.-Russian trade that McClatchy cites in the first five months of this year were big-ticket items like Boeing civilian aircraft — eight were sold to Russia this year, at a cost of $1.39 billion — and a 95 percent increase in cars and trucks, $1 billion in machinery, and $227 million in mining, oil, and gas equipment.
Reuters reports that Russia has complained that the sanctions violate World Trade Organization rules, though U.S. Ambassador to the WTO Michael Punke insisted to Reuters,
"We remain confident that all of these actions are consistent with our WTO obligations."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is opposing further sanctions, and Myron Brilliant, head of the Chamber's international affairs, told McClatchy in a statement, "The fact that the U.S. accounts for less than 5 percent of Russia's international commerce will limit the sanctions' impact on Russian policy."
Leslie Beyer, president of the Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association, expressed fears that further sanctions could hurt U.S. business, telling McClatchy, "Obstruction to ongoing operations would hinder domestic job growth and simply open the door to foreign competitors."
Tony Blinken, a national security adviser to Obama, told The Guardian,
"We expect the European Union to take significant additional steps this week, including in key sectors of the Russian economy. In turn, and in full coordination with Europe, the United States will implement additional measures itself."
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