US officials threaten more economic pain if Russia does not change

Reuters
Washington, DC, USA Published: Aug 21, 2018, 10:15 PM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( AFP )

Washington is prepared to impose more economic pain on Russia if it does not change its behaviour, Trump administration officials told a Senate hearing on Tuesday, as US lawmakers pushed for stronger measures to counteract what they see as "malign" Russian activities. 

Also read: Actions better than words, says Russia after Trump offer

"Though Russia's malign activities continue, we believe its adventurism undoubtedly has been checked by the knowledge that we can bring much more economic pain to bear using our powerful range of authorities - and that we will not hesitate to do so if its conduct does not demonstrably and significantly change," Acting Deputy Treasury Secretary Sigal Mandelker told the Senate Banking Committee.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly said he would like better ties with Moscow, but although he met Russian President Vladimir Putin last month, relations between the two countries have come under further strain as Washington has imposed new sanctions.

US lawmakers have called for even more action - including what one senator called a new sanctions package "from hell" - to punish Russia for actions including its annexation of Crimea, involvement in the Syrian civil war and what US intelligence agencies describe as cyber attacks seeking to influence US elections.

Moscow has repeatedly denied attempting to influence US elections, including the 2016 presidential vote that brought Trump into office.

Christopher Ford, assistant secretary at the State Department`s Bureau Of International Security And Nonproliferation, testified that significant amounts of arms deals between Russia and third countries had been cancelled because of concerns about penalties that could be imposed by the United States.

At a separate Senate hearing on Tuesday, Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell told the Foreign Relations Committee that concern about sanctions has cost Russia $8 to $10 billion in arms deals.

Mitchell said foreign direct investment in Russia has fallen by 80 per cent since 2013, "which is a pretty stunning number."

Separately on Tuesday, the Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on two Russians, one Russian company and one Slovakian firm for what it said were their actions to help another Russian company avoid sanctions targeting Russia`s malicious cyber-related activities.

The United States also announced sanctions on two Russian shipping companies and six vessels it said were involved in the transfer of refined petroleum products to North Korean vessels in violation of UN restrictions.

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