Biden Administration Imposes Retaliatory Sanctions on Russia

Kamilla Sorskar Engen, International Law and Affairs Officer

20 Apr 2021

On the 15th of April, the Biden administration announced new sanctions imposed, as well as diplomatic expulsions, to penalise Russia. The actions have been introduced by the US as a punishment for Russia's interference in the 2020 presidential election, the cyberattack (‘SolarWinds’), the CIA's report that Russia offered to pay bounties to militants in Afghanistan in return for killing American troops, and its continuing occupation of, and human rights abuses in, Crimea. These sanctions are amongst ‘seen and unseen’ measures to be taken in the US’ response to Russian actions, according to White House officials.

The US placed the blame for the cyberattack on the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (the SVR), which affected and stole information from nine federal agencies, as well as large portions of the private sector. The administration also announced that it would expel 10 Russian diplomats in Washington and New York for the interference in the election and the cyberattack.

The newest sanctions are intended to have a greater impact than previous efforts to punish Russia for election interference, by targeting its sovereign debt. It will do so by prohibiting US financial entities from participating in the primary market for bonds issued by Russia’s central bank and other top financial institutions. The Biden administration at first contemplated retaliating only to the cyberattack, though ultimately elected to combine action taken against Russia for other actions. Previously, the administration imposed sanctions against Russia for the poisoning of opposition leader, Aleksei Navalny.

The ‘unseen’ actions taken against Russia, such as cyberoperations against those behind the cyberattack, are expected to remain confidential. However, anticipated announcements include cyber-exercises with allies to develop abilities in detecting and countering Russian interferences.

Additionally, US and NATO allies are indicating concern about the build-up of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. This comes after a US intelligence annual report stated that Russia ‘presents one of the most serious intelligence threats to the United States.’

Read more about the measures imposed by the US in this New York Times article: