The Kremlin has never been richer – thanks to a US strategic partner

“Russia is entering its third year of war in Ukraine with an unprecedented amount of cash in government coffers, bolstered by a record $37 billion of crude oil sales to India last year, according to new analysis, which concludes that some of the crude was refined by India and then exported to the United States as oil products worth more than $1 billion.
This flow of payments, ultimately to Moscow’s benefit, comes from India increasing its purchases of Russian crude by over 13 times its pre-war amounts, according to the analysis by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), exclusively shared with CNN. It amounts to US strategic partner New Delhi stepping in to replace crude purchases by Western buyers, reduced by sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the analysis said.”

The West tried to crush Russia’s economy. Why hasn’t it worked?

“many Russian banks, including some key ones involved in energy transactions, have not been barred from SWIFT. According to the Atlantic Council, “most of Russia’s regional and smaller banks, over 300, still have access to SWIFT, enabling Russia to conduct cross-border payments and transactions for imports and exports.”
“The fact that the shut out was not universal has left ample scope for Russian banks to continue to benefit from SWIFT messaging services,” said Keatinge of RUSI Europe.”

Sanctions aren’t working: How the West enables Russia’s war on Ukraine

“Which company is the leading maker of the so-called “high-priority battlefield items” trafficked to Russia that the Western coalition wants to interdict?
If you said Intel, then go to the top of the class: According to the sanctions team at the Kyiv School of Economics, the U.S. semiconductor giant again leads the pack this year. It’s followed by Huawei of China. Then come Analog Devices, AMD, Texas Instruments and IBM — all of which are American.

Russian imports of microelectronics, wireless and satellite navigation systems and other critical parts subject to sanctions have recovered to near pre-war levels with a monthly run rate of $900 million in the first nine months of this year, according to a forthcoming report from the Kyiv School’s analytical center, the KSE Institute.

All of this indicates that, while Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022, had a temporary impact, Moscow and its helpers have largely succeeded in reconfiguring supply chains — with the help of China, Hong Kong and countries in Russia’s backyard like Kazakhstan and NATO member Turkey.”

“In our investigations, we showed how U.S.-made sniper ammunition finds its way into Russian rifles, and how China has positioned itself as Russia’s go-to supplier of nonlethal, but militarily useful, equipment.”

“Russians with close ties to Putin — and their money — continue to be more than welcome in Europe despite the death and destruction his regime has unleashed. His former wife, Lyudmila, and her new partner have splashed the cash on luxury property investments in Spain, Switzerland and France, as a POLITICO investigation found at the start of the year.

And when the European Council — the intergovernmental branch of the EU — does sanction Russian business leaders suspected of aiding and abetting the Putin regime, it has often relied on slipshod evidence that makes the decisions easy to challenge in court, POLITICO has also found.

Nearly 1,600 Western multinationals continue, meanwhile, to do business in Russia. Many that announced they would pull out have struggled to do so, as POLITICO discovered when it investigated Western liquor companies that said they had quit Russia — only to find that their booze was still freely available. And some companies that did stay, like Danone and Carlsberg, have been shaken down by Putin and his cronies — a case of Russian roulette, if ever there was one.”

“With the EU apparently lacking the means, or the political will, to do more to economically isolate Russia, the bloc is sending its sanctions envoy, David O’Sullivan, on a mission to apply moral suasion to countries that are, as he diplomatically puts it, “not aligned” on sanctions.

On the high-priority battlefield technology, Sullivan told POLITICO’s EU Confidential podcast last month that the EU has had “a limited success — but in an area which is absolutely critical to the defense of Ukraine.”

More broadly, he said: “The sanctions are a sort of slow puncture of the Russian economy. Perhaps not the blowout that some people initially predicted, but … the air is escaping from the tire and sooner or later the vehicle is going to become impossible to drive.”

To be fair, O’Sullivan isn’t overselling the efficacy of sanctions. And he may ultimately be proven right.

But he only will be vindicated if Western governments do a better job of holding their own businesses to account in stemming the flows of technology, equipment and spare parts that sustain Putin and his war of aggression.

That will come down to whether they have the will to enforce their decisions. And the evidence so far is that they don’t.”

China supported sanctions on North Korea’s nuclear program. It’s also behind their failure

“Chinese middlemen launder the proceeds of North Korean hackers’ cyber heists while Chinese ships deliver sanctioned North Korean goods to Chinese ports.
Chinese companies help North Koreans workers — from cheap laborers to well-paid IT specialists — find work abroad. A Beijing art gallery even boasts of North Korean artists working 12-hour days in its heavily surveilled compound, churning out paintings of idyllic visions of life under communism that each sell for thousands of dollars.

That’s all part of what international authorities say is a growing mountain of evidence that shows Beijing is helping cash-strapped North Korea evade a broad range of international sanctions designed to hamper Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, according to an Associated Press review of United Nations reports, court records and interviews with experts.

“It’s overwhelming,” Aaron Arnold, a former member of a U.N. panel on North Korea and a sanctions expert at the Royal United Services Institute, said of the links between China and sanctions evasion. “At this point, it’s very hard to say it’s not intentional.””

U.S. sanctions Turkey-based entities it says helped Russia’s war

“The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on at least four Turkey-based entities it said violated U.S. export controls and helped Russia’s war effort, in the biggest U.S. enforcement action in Turkey since the invasion of Ukraine last year.
The designations – which included an electronics company and a technology trader alleged to have helped transfer “dual-use” goods – were part of a global sanctions package on more than 120 entities announced by the U.S. Treasury.

Washington and its allies imposed extensive sanctions on Russia after its invasion, but supply channels from Black Sea neighbour Turkey and other trading hubs, including Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates, have remained open.

A U.S. administration official told Reuters the sanctions targeted entities and people in Turkey’s maritime and trade sectors that were “primarily” Russia-owned or Russia-linked.

“It’s meant as a warning shot in the evolving phase of enforcing export controls,” the official said, requesting anonymity.”

America dealt with a Nicaraguan dictator. It didn’t go as hoped.

“U.S.-Nicaragua links began unraveling more than a decade ago as it became clear that Ortega — a former rebel who fought another Nicaraguan dictator — wouldn’t leave the presidency. Relations worsened over the past five years as Ortega and Murillo strengthened their grip.
The Trump administration imposed economic sanctions and other penalties, mainly targeting individuals such as Murillo, in 2018, a year when the regime brutally cracked down on widespread protests.

In June 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Nicaraguan counterpart that the United States could ease up on those penalties if Nicaragua were to move back toward democracy and improve its human rights record. (Abuses such as torture and extrajudicial executions in Nicaragua may constitute crimes against humanity, a U.N. investigative panel said earlier this month.)

Blinken’s message failed to sway the ruling power couple. Over the next few months, Ortega and Murillo imprisoned more dissidents ahead of an election.

The U.S. responded by slapping sanctions on a Nicaraguan state-owned mining company and banning visas for hundreds of Nicaraguan officials and their relatives. Biden also issued orders in October that authorized his administration to impose future sanctions on various economic sectors in Nicaragua, as well as trade and investment.”

We Already Have 18 Intelligence Agencies. We Still Need 1 More.

“The U.S. cannot adequately address its national security challenges related to China, which are increasingly driven by technology, without the help of a potentially surprising partner: the Department of Commerce.

Unfortunately, the department itself lacks the critical support needed for these efforts. Most crucial: Commerce needs its own intelligence agency.”

“The cases that come before CFIUS are privileged and not publicly disclosed. But I can say this: The most challenging ones usually revolved around issues of advanced or dual-use technology, an area in which the Department of Commerce plays a critical role given its international trade and export control responsibilities.

Today, the Department of Commerce is an agency unexpectedly on the frontlines of vital U.S. national and economic security challenges, most prominently demonstrated by its leading role on ensuring critical access to semiconductors, and as evidenced by the CHIPS Act and recent rules promulgated by the department to protect against even knowledge transfers between the United States and China.

But these efforts are certain to be a beginning for Commerce, not an end. And a dedicated in-house intel agency can better identify emerging threats and challenges from China that Commerce needs to tackle, including potential spyware and other intrusions embedded in foreign technology. For instance, in late November, the U.S. issued a ban on new Huawei and ZTE equipment — along with that of three other Chinese companies — for fear it would be used to spy on Americans. Last month, Congress proposed limiting U.S. exposure to Chinese 5G leaders, including Huawei, by restricting their access to U.S. banks, adding them to Treasury’s Specifically Designated Nationals List.

In fact, Commerce’s current position is not unlike that of the Treasury Department’s in 2004.

That year — as part of the Intelligence Authorization Act — Congress established the current iteration of Treasury’s intelligence agency, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, and formally made it part of the broader intel community. Since then, OIA has played a critical role for almost two decades combating terrorist financing, helping support sanctions efforts and providing financial intelligence to Treasury policymakers.

OIA’s successes would simply not have been possible without it being a full, integrated member of the intelligence community. Indeed, its assessments often find their way to the White House and to other senior policymakers across town, even as its primary focus is supporting the Treasury Department.

In the same way, the Commerce Department cannot be expected to play a more fulsome role in U.S. national security if its leaders are not fully informed of the strategic goals and illicit tactical efforts of U.S. adversaries. To meet that expectation, requires the launch of a new, 19th intel agency to be housed at the department.”

The delayed impact of the EU’s wartime sanctions on Russia

“There is one key factor explaining why imports to the EU from Russia haven’t fallen further: energy — and its price. During the five years that preceded the war, energy-related products represented two-thirds of all imports from Russia, in monetary terms.
European countries needed to find alternative providers before they could stop buying from Moscow — and even when they reduced their energy purchases, soaring prices meant that cash flows to Russia did not decrease proportionally.”