Yesterday the US government published its Section 241 list under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act 2017 (CAATSA). The 210 persons on the list are not subject to sanctions directly. The US government was required to submit to Congress a list of the most significant senior figures in political and business and amongst parastatal entities. Clearly though just being on the list is going to cast a shadow over the business operations and movements of the listed individuals. There are however, more direct and immediate concerns for the persons listed under Section 241 stemming from another move by the Trump White House.
What I argue in my latest Statecraft piece Dealing with Trump’s Magnitsky Expansionism is that the largely overlooked Executive Order 13818 (EO) is likely to bring sanctions more rapidly down on members of the Russian elite than CAATSA. In essence, the EO reduces the legal standards for human rights abuses and corruption under the Global Magnitsky Act (GMA) adopted in 2016, and operationalises, even weaponises the GMA. With a lower legal bar to action; a broader range of actors who can be subject to sanction liability and the capacity of Congress to make its own GMA filings, NGOs, civil society and the Russian opposition now have a powerful tool in their armoury.
There is now even a danger that the CAATSA and the enhanced GMA may begin to interact, with one another-in that the Section 241 list could be deployed as a target list for sanctions under the GMA.
The danger for Russian businesses and their Western partners is that the number and scope of potential sanctions is likely to undermine confidence and willingness to go through with transactions. This freezing of business confidence is likely to reinforced by GMA filings, which are likely to occur in small batches, a regular drip, drip drip of GMA filings will act as an ever present concern in dealings with Russian entities for the foreseeable future.