Former Top Trump Official Argues Biden’s Russia Sanctions Are ‘Half Measures,’ Contain Loopholes

(Photo by MIKHAIL METZEL/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

Anders Hagstrom White House Correspondent
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President Joe Biden’s sanctions against Russia are half measures that don’t go nearly as far as sanctions the U.S. has used in the past against Iran and other adversaries, former Trump administration Treasury official Marshall Billingslea stated Wednesday.

Billingslea served under former President Donald Trump as assistant secretary of the Treasury for terrorist financing, and argued that Biden’s sanctions against the Central Bank of the Russian Federation (RCB) leaves key loopholes that may allow Russia’s economy to stay afloat. Billingslea laid out his criticism in a series of tweets Wednesday.

While Biden’s executive order bans any U.S. citizen from transacting with the RCB, the section of the order used to enforce that ban rules out extending sanctions to apply to foreign individuals or financial institutions. Billingslea pointed out that the U.S. has closed that loophole in sanctions against Iran and Venezuela, indicating that it’s appearance in Biden’s sanctions is not accidental. (RELATED: Russia And Putin Take Center Stage In Biden’s SOTU Address)

“They deliberately decided to take ‘off the the table’ the option for US sanctions on foreign banks or companies who continue to transact with the RCB despite our prohibitions,” Billingslea wrote. “This was a conscious decision to not sanction the RCB in a way that we could deter, say, the Chinese or others from transacting with the RCB, possibly helping keep Russia’s economy afloat. This is not how we used sanctions on Iran or Venezuela. It is a much weaker approach.”

The sanctions against the RCB are a central pillar in the suite of economic actions Biden has taken against Russia in recent weeks. The Biden administration has also targeted other major state-controlled banks in Russia, as well as numerous oligarchs and Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

Biden announced further sanctions against top-level Russian officials Thursday, including Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, and seven oligarchs and their families.

The new sanctions also target 19 other Russian oligarchs and their families with visa restrictions.