US 'almost certain' to extend Russian sanctions in March: former diplomat

US election 2016: A Platts news and analysis feature

By Megan Gordon

Published online 08 Dec 2016

US 'almost certain' to extend Russian sanctions in March: former diplomat

US election 2016: A Platts news and analysis feature

By Megan Gordon

Published online 08 Dec 2016

US sanctions against the Russian energy sector are "likely or almost certain" to be renewed in March and again next summer, despite predictions that President-elect Donald Trump will take a softer stance with Moscow, a sanctions expert and former US ambassador to Ukraine said December 6.

"The Trump administration is not going to monkey with sanctions," said John Herbst, now director of the Atlantic Council's Eurasia program. "The people that the president-elect has named as national security figures all understand the dangers of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's aggressive agenda and the need to withstand it."

He was speaking at an Atlantic Council event in Washington.

If Trump decides not to renew the Russian sanctions through executive action, however, Congress has made clear its willingness to impose sanctions through legislation.

"There's going to be a strong majority on both sides of the aisle in favor of sanctions, and perhaps a veto-proof majority," Herbst said.

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David Aufhauser, a partner at Williams & Connolly and former counsel to the Treasury Department, agreed that the Trump administration will be "very muscular" about the Russian sanctions.

"But we can't fool ourselves: Western Europe may not go along," Aufhauser said. "And unilateral sanctions are usually a lousy idea."

European sanctions against Russia expire January 31, and EU leaders are expected to vote next week whether to extend them by six months.

The Atlantic Council released a study calling into question the effectiveness of the US and European sanctions against Russia.

Report author Sergey Aleksashenko, former deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank and former chairman of Merrill Lynch Russia, recommended tightening sanctions against individuals, expanding financial sanctions and increasing the cost on Russia's energy sector through an embargo on buying crude from state-owned companies.

"Even if Russia is able to sell its oil elsewhere, it will cost it more to do so, correspondingly reducing the financial resources of Putin's regime," Aleksashenko wrote.

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