Friday, February 03, 2017

Some Good News on US/Russia Relations

Some Good News on US/Russia Relations

by Stephen Lendman

On Thursday, the US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control modestly eased sanctions on Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).

“(R)equesting, receiving, utilizing, paying for, or dealing in licenses, permits, certifications, or notifications issued or registered by the Federal Security Service (FSB) for the importation, distribution, or use of information technology products in the Russian Federation” is now permitted.

Products under export control need Commerce Department authorization. Fees for licenses, permits, certifications and notifications may not “exceed $5,000 in any calendar year.”

“(E)xportation, reexportation, or provision of goods or technology to or on behalf of the Federal Security Service” are not authorized - nor to Crimea. US-blocked accounts can’t be used.

In response to the Treasury’s action, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “we need to understand what it is all about. If we turn to the rocket engines matter, we will see that our US counterparts never impose sanctions that could damage their own interests.”

The Treasury’s ruling was briefly stated without elaboration. Questions remain unanswered. White House press secretary Sean Spicer called the move “a regular course of action, not “represent(ing) a shift in policy.”

FSB restrictions were imposed at yearend 2016, based on phony accusations of Russian US election hacking.

Commenting on Wednesday’s ruling, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said “(w)e shouldn’t kid ourselves. Most likely (US sanctions) will stay as is in the near future. We’re going to base our actions on a conservative forecast.”

An unnamed Russian Foreign Ministry official said Putin and Lavrov “repeatedly (said) “the sanctions issue is not our competence, as we did not impose them.” 

“The question about sanctions should be addressed to the party that imposed them. Therefore, the American side should come up with the solutions.”

Was Thursday’s action an olive branch or empty gesture? Though a positive step on the surface, it changed little. Largely or entirely lifting sanctions on Russia will likely be a long time coming - given near unanimity in Congress opposing it.

It’s way too early to be optimistic. A Russia/US summit has yet to take place. Whether Putin and Trump meeting face-to-face can produce positive results is very much uncertain.

Veto-proof congressional legislation can undo whatever good intentions America’s president may have in mind. Bilateral relations are in utter disarray because of deplorable Obama administration policies. 

Chances for reversing things may be wishful thinking - other than perhaps both countries cooperating in combating terrorism and trying to resolve the made in the USA Syrian conflict.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

Visit his blog site at 

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