Russian Ammo Ban Hurts Gun Owners, Not Vladimir Putin

“The sanctions are ostensibly in response to the poisoning last year by the Russian government of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. That was a truly horrendous crime committed by an authoritarian regime against one of the few figures who continues to rally dissidents against Vladimir Putin’s regime, even from prison.

“There’s no need to apply sanctions on Russia,” Navalny told The New York Times this week. “For now, all sanctions were tailored to avoid almost all significant participants in Putin’s gangster gang. Do you want evidence? Name one real evildoer who suffered. The airplanes, the yachts, the billions in Western banks — everything is in its place,” he added. Navalny recommends directly targeting Putin’s allies.

As Navalny’s comments suggest, restrictions on imports of firearms and ammunition are less likely to hurt well-connected Russian manufacturers, who will almost certainly find buyers elsewhere, than they are to hurt civilian consumers of those goods. Amid social fracture and loss of faith in institutions, American firearms sales are booming, the ranks of gun owners swelling, and ammunition manufacturers are struggling to meet demand. Cutting off the largest single source of imported ammunition to the United States can only reduce supply and drive ammunition prices higher.”

Biden’s Cuba policy is suddenly in the spotlight

“Cuba’s economic problems largely predate the pandemic, but the coronavirus sharpened them. It decimated Cuba’s tourism industry, a huge slice of the island’s economy. Trump-era sanctions — which the Biden administration has not rolled back — have added to the pressure. And the pandemic itself is taking a toll: Cuba is currently experiencing a record surge in cases and deaths.”

“Biden said the US supports Cuba’s “clarion call for freedom and relief.” Both Democrats and Republicans have backed the protests, but US lawmakers are split over how to approach the demonstrations and acute humanitarian crisis on the island.
Biden promised during his 2020 campaign to roll back Trump’s sanctions on Cuba, but he hasn’t acted. Now, the issue is urgent — both for those who want to see the sanctions gone and for those who feel Biden must keep them in place to continue pressuring the regime.

Biden’s best-laid plans on foreign policy didn’t include Cuba as a priority. But now a crisis in Cuba is here. What the US should do is always a complicated decision, but it’s clear Biden can’t just ignore Cuba.”

“After the protests, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel blamed much of the unrest on the United States, claiming US-backed mercenaries caused the unrest. He called on supporters to also go to the streets and “defend the revolution.” About 100 people were arrested, according to human rights groups.”

“The specter of United States interference remains powerful in Cuba, given, well, a very long history of US intervention there. Fast-forwarding to the Cuban Revolution in 1959, communist revolutionary Fidel Castro overthrew the US-backed dictator and began to pursue closer ties with the Soviet Union — an absolute no-no for the US during the Cold War.

The US tried to overthrow Castro during the Bay of Pigs invasion in the 1960s, but after that failure, the US strengthened an economic embargo that largely blocked Americans from doing business or trade with Cuba. There have been tweaks on the margins since, but the embargo has long outlasted the Cold War.

In 2014, then-President Barack Obama began a historic diplomatic opening with Cuba, and as a result of the process, rolled back some economic restrictions tied to the Cold War-era US embargo and opened up travel.

Trump, as president, vowed to reverse those policies; he did throughout his time in office, significantly stepping up the pressure starting in 2019. He imposed renewed travel restrictions and other sanctions, including designating Cuba as a “state sponsor of terror” in his final days in office. A key pillar of Trump’s sanctions severely limited remittances to the island, which cut off another economic spigot.

As experts said, Cuba’s problems are deeper than US sanctions alone, but the Trump-era policy, especially coming during the pandemic, is adding to the strain. And that is creating a dilemma for Washington.”

Biden announces sanctions on Myanmar’s military in response to the coup

“President Joe Biden has announced that the United States is imposing sanctions on Myanmar’s military following its overthrow of the country’s civilian leadership in a coup last week.

“Biden detailed a three-pronged response his administration would be pursuing. The first is an executive order that imposes sanctions on the military leaders who organized and launched the coup, as well as their business interests and close family members.”

“The Biden administration will also block the regime from accessing its roughly $1 billion held in the US, though American funding for civil society groups and the most vulnerable will continue. And it will impose new export controls and freeze unnamed assets that could benefit Myanmar’s military-led government.”

“For Biden to end these reprimands, he said the military should relinquish the power it seized and allow Myanmar to go back to the more democratic government it overthrew.”

“Myanmar has toggled between military and civilian leadership since 1948, though the Tatmadaw, as the country’s armed forces are formally known, has remained the most powerful institution the entire time. The US and other nations thus placed sanctions on Myanmar for decades, hoping those punishments would compel the generals to enact pro-democracy reforms and stop abusing human rights.

They worked, at least for a time. Suu Kyi, under house arrest since 1989 for leading a pro-democracy movement against the military, was finally released in 2010. Then the junta gave up some of its control in 2011 and governed alongside Suu Kyi’s NLD.

That arrangement was quasi-democratic at best”

“the NLD grew popular, trouncing the military’s political arm during the 2015 legislative election — leading the US to lift sanctions the following year — and then again in 2020. It proved Suu Kyi and her pro-democracy party were not only popular, but also had a mandate to strip the military of its autocratic authorities. It helped that the US and other countries lifted the sanctions due to Suu Kyi’s leadership.
That in part led her to seek bolder reforms. In March 2020, for example, Suu Kyi proposed reducing the number of allocated seats for military officers in Parliament. She received majority support for the measure in the legislature — but the Tatmadaw vetoed the move.

Ultimately, Suu Kyi’s growing influence and threat to the military’s hold on power led the Tatmadaw to launch a coup, hours before a new NLD-led Parliament was scheduled to sit for the first time.”

Why Trump just sanctioned NATO ally Turkey

“The United States is finally punishing Turkey for purchasing a Russian missile defense system, a long-anticipated move that is likely to increase tensions with a NATO ally.”

“the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system. The administration ordered the penalties under a section of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which gives the president the power to sanction people or entities that do business with Russia’s intelligence or defense sectors. The sanctions specifically target Turkey’s defense procurement agency, known as the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), and its senior officials.”

“Turkey acquired the defense system last year, after repeated warnings by the Trump administration not to do so because they do not want a NATO ally relying on Russian systems. US officials also said Turkey’s use of the S-400 jeopardized America’s F-35 fighter jet program, over fears the Russian system’s radars could collect intelligence on the F-35s.

In response, the US removed Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet program, which barred the country from getting the jets and restricted any Turkish personnel from working with the planes. Still, bipartisan members of Congress continued to push for harsher punishment of Turkey, including sanctions.

Turkey’s decision to purchase the Russian system further strained relations between Washington and Ankara. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has consolidated power in recent years, becoming more explicitly authoritarian and cracking down on dissent, including by jailing journalists and others he perceives as his political enemies.

Erdoğan was angered by the US’s decision to ally with the Kurds in the fight against ISIS in Syria, as Erdoğan associates them with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a terrorist group that’s waged attacks in Turkey. He has also bristled at the US’s refusal to extradite a US-based cleric whom Erdoğan blames for a 2016 coup attempt.

Beyond Turkey’s flirtation with Russia, Turkey has also tried to exert its regional influence in places like Syria and Libya and the eastern Mediterranean Sea, where its gas exploration efforts have increased tensions with Greece and other NATO allies in the European Union, too. (The EU is also considering sanctions against Turkey.)

But despite issuing lots of admonitions, the Trump administration didn’t move forward with the CAATSA sanctions. Some attributed Trump’s refusal to do so to his personal affinity for Erdoğan.

Then in October, Turkey tested the S-400 system in defiance of US warnings, making it much harder for the US to ignore.

And this month, Congress, in its annual defense authorization bill, included mandatory sanctions against Turkey for its Russian defense shopping spree. Though Trump has threatened to veto the bill for lots of reasons, the administration’s move to sanction Turkey on Monday may have been an attempt to get ahead of that requirement.”

Trump loves sanctioning foreign countries — but he’s terrible at it

“Change the Iranian regime’s behavior? Sanctions. Dismantle North Korea’s nuclear arsenal? Sanctions. Depose Venezuela’s dictator? You guessed it: Sanctions.

That indiscriminate wielding of America’s economic might — in a strategy his administration labels “maximum pressure” — is a trademark of Trump’s foreign policy. No president, in the minds of experts I spoke with, has relied so heavily on sanctions to solve intractable problems.

But at the same time, experts I spoke to said no president has failed so clearly to grasp the nature of financial warfare and how to deploy it effectively.

“I’ve never seen a president use sanctions as much or as clumsily,” said David Baldwin, an international economics expert at Princeton University. “He’s like a bull in a china shop.””

“Trump has little to show for his efforts. Iran’s leadership remains in power and is no closer to reaching a new diplomatic pact with the US over its nuclear program. North Korea’s nuclear and missile arsenals have grown in numbers and strength. And Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, still shows no sign of letting control of the country slip through his clenched fist.

That’s not to say Trump didn’t inflict economic harm on foreign countries, leaders, and individuals in his first term. US sanctions are directly responsible for deepening financial crises in all three nations, exacerbating woes caused by local mismanagement, corruption, and coronavirus outbreaks.

But that devastation has hurt millions of people in those countries much more than it has helped the Trump administration achieve its goals, making it easier for regimes to blame the US — and not themselves — for the pain.

The fundamental problem with Trump’s approach: He believes sanctions will get him what he wants, but he demands too much in return for their removal, or undermines them through weak enforcement and ever-shifting policies.”

“US sanctions can be very effective — and debilitating — but they work best when a president understands their limitations, how to make them stick, and when to coordinate them with other countries.

Otherwise, the nation those measures may end up isolating most is America”