The U.S. announced new economic sanctions against Russia this morning for their role in meddling in the 2016 presidential election as well as other acts of aggression having to do with cyber-espionage.
“Treasury sanctions Russian cyber actors for interference with the 2016 U.S. Elections and malicious cyber-attacks. CAATSA sanctions are part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia,” the Treasury Department wrote on its official Twitter account this morning.
The sanctions target thirteen individuals and entities indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller last month for their role in the interference campaign into the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Additional sanctions were also placed on the FSB – Russia’s security service and successor to the KGB, the GRU – Russia’s military intelligence service, and six officers of the GRU.
Sanctions were levelled against the FSB for, among other acts of hostility, using cyber tools to target Russian journalists and political opposition leaders, to target foreign government officials, including military and White House personnel, and for their involvement in the 2014 hacking of Yahoo!, which compromised millions of accounts.
The GRU was sanctioned for their role in the 2016 presidential election interference, as well as for a 2017 cyber-attack that scrambled file systems of computers all over the world and caused billions of dollars in damage across Europe, Asia and the U.S. The NotPetya attack, as it’s come to be known, disrupted global shipping, trade and even medicine production. Several hospitals in the U.S. were unable to create electronic medical records for their patients for more than a week because of the strike.
Attribution of the cyber-attack was made to the Russian government earlier this year by both the U.S. and British governments.
The U.S. sanctions come at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and the West. British Prime Minister Theresa May announced a series of measures yesterday aimed at degrading Russian espionage networks in the U.S. The moves come in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack carried out on a former Russian security official who has been living in England since 2010.
This morning, the leaders of France, Germany, the U.K. as well as the U.S., issued a joint statement criticizing Russia for the attack and warning the Russian government about its actions.
“This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War. It is an assault on the United Kingdom’s sovereignty and any such use by a state party is a clear violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and a breach of international law. It threatens the security of us all,” the statement read.
“Our concerns are also heightened against the background of a pattern of earlier irresponsible Russian behavior. We call on Russia to live up to its responsibilities as a member of the U.N. Security Council to uphold international peace and security,” it added.
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) welcomed the sanctions-announcement but questioned what their effectiveness will ultimately be.
“Russia is on course to do what Russia is going to do. I think it’s good that we’re doing it … but I think they are going to continue to attempt to create the kind of disharmony that they have been good at doing,” Corker said to reporters today.
Others however, saw it as a welcome step, and wanted to see President Trump’s rhetoric on Russia become even sharper.
“I think this is a good step. It is not fully sufficient,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said today. “What continues to concern to me is that while you had the administration act, there continues to be a reluctance by the president himself to call out Russia as a bad actor.”