Speaking with Izvestia newspaper in an interview published last week, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov hinted at a means of retribution still available to the Kremlin, which could be used towards the U.S., if further sanctions were to be imposed on Russia or its citizens.
Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department named over 200 Russians to a list (that includes 96 "oligarchs") considered to have close ties with the Kremlin. Many of these people are expected to receive sanctions as part of a package signed into law in August of last year.
According to a recent Reuters article:Ryabkov told Izvestia that Moscow had previously hit back at the United States by suspending agreements in the nuclear sphere, expanding its list of U.S. politicians it deems anti-Russian, and by ordering half the staff at the U.S. embassy in Russia to leave.
'We still have similar measures left in our arsenal,' said Ryabkov. 'But their possible activation is subject to a separate political decision.'
The list includes both the "oligarchs," with wealth over $1 billion and Russian officials. According to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, new U.S. sanctions will follow the release of the list and could be instituted some time within the next two to three months. But Democrats don't feel those sanctions are happening quickly enough, criticizing President Trump for delaying their implementation.
Mnuchin argued that the "oligarchs list" has not been delayed by the Trump administration, emphasizing that the list is NOT a guarantee of who will or won't be sanctioned. In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Mnuchin said:
There will be sanctions that come out of this report. We will take the basis of that report and look at, as we do in the normal course, where it's appropriate to put sanctions. This should in no way be interpreted as we're not putting sanctions on any of the people in that report.Still, with U.S./Russian relations strained over allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election in 2016 and tensions still running high over Syria, Ryabkov appeared to be issuing a carefully worded warning to the U.S., noting that a decision like this would be made by President Vladimir Putinhimselfafter heassessed the consequences (of the list) and any actions that might be taken on that list by the U.S..
A Treasury spokesperson (speaking on condition of anonymity to BuzzFeed News) confirmed that: ...the unclassified annex of the report was derived from Forbes' ranking of the '200 richest businessmen in Russia 2017.'
As an interesting side note, the 96 tycoons named in the U.S. "oligarch" list appear to match the list of billionaires published in the Russian edition of Forbes magazine last year.
This has drawn some criticism that the list may have been haphazardly put together. Only time will tell how exactly or even if, the list will be used by the Trump administration to indeed impose any new sanctions on Russia.