Is Trump’s delay in imposing new sanctions playing into a larger Moscow game to lift them?

Putin-Trump meeting in Hamburg, Germany in July 2017 (Image: screen capture)

Putin-Trump meeting in Hamburg, Germany in July 2017 (Image: screen capture) 

Analysis & Opinion, Politics, Russia

Many Russian commentators are suggesting that Donald Trump’s refusal to impose Congress-mandated sanctions on Russian leaders is an act of “sabotage” – see, for example, Aleksandr Nemetsessay on Kasparov.ru about recent developments in Washington.

Despite mounting anger in the US Congress and the American population, Nemets says, “Trump does not want – or can’t, as a result of secret ties with Moscow! – to change his previous model of behavior” of pushing for better relations with Moscow and thus “continues to sabotage anti-Russian sanctions.”

But another Russian commentator, Anna Nemtsova, suggests more may be going on, that Moscow even now is working to frighten Washington into lifting sanctions by having Russians pull more than one trillion US dollars out of the West or by playing on Western fears that if sanctions continue, someone even worse than Putin could come to power in Moscow.

In a new article entitled “Moscow’s Plan to Beat Sanctions? ‘Russia First!’” Nemtsova says that both conservative and liberal factions in the Kremlin elite believe that the new sanctions have “cornered” Putin and are forcing him to take radical actions to try to save the situation by convincing Washington it must change course. She writes:

“some Russian VIPs still wake up hoping to make a deal with the Americans before the Russian presidential election campaign of 2018 is underway—to convince Washington that if the pressure of sanctions grows worse, a much scarier “enfant terrible” than Vladimir Putin will come to power in Russia.”

These people, Nemtsov continues, call themselves “the Jumpstart Party” (ryvok in Russian) and, according to one of its leader’s, Yury Krupnov, who says he has Putin’s support, are demanding that Russian elites “either bring all your offshore money back home and invest in developing the economy or you will have to go.”

The group estimates that Russian companies now have approximately one trillion US dollars in banks and brokerage accounts abroad.

Russian businessmen could be threatened with jail or death if they did not repatriate their funds, Yury Gromyko of Moscow’s Shiffers Institute says.

Such a sudden and massive withdrawal of funds, of course, would have a significant impact on Western markets and might lead some in Washington to reconsider their positions on sanctions. Indeed, it is not impossible that President Trump is among those who might expect that to happen and who might delay sanctions to prevent that from taking place.

But in Russia itself, Nemtsova says, few expect this call for repatriation to work anytime soon. Repressive moves against Russian businesses just now would, as Moscow economist Yevgeny Gontmakher points out, end any chance that foreigners would ever invest in “such an isolationist Russia.”

But the Jumpstart supporters have a fallback position, one that might do even more to change some minds in the West.

According to Krupnov, “Washington should consider a deal with Russia, a joint struggle against global challenges.” If it doesn’t, a new leader will emerge in the Russian capital.

He won’t be a reformer, the Jumpstart advocate says, “but a completely anti-Western, revenge-thirsty general, who would cause harm to the USA.” For Moscow’s strategy as outlined by Nemtsova to work, it would not even be necessary for the Russian side to take either action. Simply threatening the one and raising the prospect of the other might be enough.

Indeed, it is not impossible that the comments by Jumpstart leaders to Nemtsova and others are part and parcel of that game. Moscow may calculate that it need make only a few moves to lend credibility to these threats to change minds in the West and thus it may believe that Trump’s foot-dragging will play into its hands.

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Edited by: A. N.

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  • Ihor Dawydiak

    This article is a bunch of nonsense. Russian oligarchs that have invested their wealth in the West did so for at least three reasons, including; 1) They wanted to increase their wealth by investing into stable and profitable Western institutions, 2) They had no confidence in the Russian economy and 3) They wanted to protect their financial wealth from seizure by the totalitarian regime in Russia. In that regard, these wealthy Russian entrepreneurs also wanted to ensure that should the Kremlin try to force them to repatriate their wealth back to Russia then if they were able they would relocate themselves physically to the western world. In any case, even if Putin tried to arrest the said oligarchs who refused his demands, it would almost be certain that these same oligarchs would have already made plans to either hide their wealth or turn the control of their wealth to either family living abroad or to trusted associates. Sorry, Vovochka. Try and find another cabbage patch.

  • Микола Данчук

    Why is it that the instigator of global struggle insist that the USA join their interpretation of challenges they created?
    By threatening that it could be worse, no less?

    Let them rot in their own arrogance, no good will come of it.

    • Brent

      Very well said.

      For all of Drumpf’s bluster about Iran, North Korea and Syria, he has not once criticized their “puppetmaster Putin” for the Russian support and funding that is being funneled into these countries to try to occupy the West’s attention while Putin looks for other opportunities to steal more land from his neighbors and add more people to his list of victims he claimed he was going to “protect”.

      • zorbatheturk

        You can tell by Trump’s body language at the Hamburg summit that he likes RuSSia and Putin. That Putin is a dictator and crook does not faze Trump.

  • veth

    Stoking racial tensions, funding activist campaigns and organizing fake street flash mobs were just a sampling of the “Kremlin’s troll factory” activities online in the months leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the RBC news outlet revealed in an investigation published Tuesday.

    The St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency is believed to have launched a mass social media campaign using fake accounts to exacerbate racial and ideological divides in the U.S. before Donald Trump’s election last November.

    “There was no task to support Trump” a troll-factory employee told RBC, adding that their orders were to “uncover and highlight existing problems and social issues in the United States.”

    Some 50 employees currently operate out of the St. Petersburg-based “American department” of the Internet Research Agency, but at the height of their operations in 2016 the department had between 80 to 90 employees.

    The campaign began in March 2015, when a night-shift vacancy for “internet operators” earning 40,000-50,000 rubles ($700-$870) monthly appeared on the job-search engine SuperJob, a former employee told RBC.

    The description listed writing on “any given topic of a news, informational, or analytical nature” as the primary task. Applicants had to be fluent in English and possess creative writing abilities.

    Currently, the “American department” receives 60-70 million rubles ($1 million) funding annually, RBC reported.

    Revealed: Confessions of a Kremlin Troll
    The lowest-ranked employees earn 60,000 rubles ($1,046) a month, administrators up to 90,000 rubles (1,569 USD) a month, and managers 120,000 rubles ($2,100) a month, a former employee told RBC.

    Despite its marked success, the campaign faced numerous obstacles including having its accounts blocked by social media sites, a former troll factory employee told RBC.

    Immediately after Facebook would block a user, the factory’s IT department would purchase new proxy servers and issue new IP addresses so the work could begin anew.

    RBC counted over 6 million subscribers to 120 groups created by the troll factory that blocked by social media companies.

    The right-wing group “Heart of Texas,” with its 254 members, the religious minority group “United Muslims of America” with 330 members, and the racial activist group “Blacktivist” were among many of the fake “troll factory” accounts RBC identified.

    The “factory” spent almost $80,000 over two years managing to stage about 40 political rallies by posing as American sponsors and hiring activists.

    The trolls were also responsible for organizing fake Facebook events such as a free-hotdog giveaway in Manhattan, that they would watch for amusement with street cameras, RBC reports.

    • Screwdriver

      Can write few sentences on your own ?

    • zorbatheturk

      The trolls were and are scumballs. But their master Putin is the really evil one, Putin and the siloviki. The Kremlin is a hive of evil, a lair of criminals intent on destabilizing the world to suit their own nasty agenda.

      I wouldn’t eat a free hotdog from Putin. He has probably spat on it…

  • Brent

    “Someone worse than Putin”…..is the fatal flaw in this article. THERE IS NO ONE WORSE FOR THE WEST THAN PUTIN. Not because he’s a lying conniving vertically challenged Napoleon complex dictator, but because he already has too many cozy relationships with paid stooges, idolizers, and just plan “useful idiots” in the West that think they can “do business” as they have in the past with the leader of the Kremlin Mafia. As well, the stooges, useful idiots, trolls and other whiny little shills like “Screwball” and “Ralphie the Fake Norwegian” don’t idolize other Russian leaders like they do Putin.

    If….no…WHEN….someone else replaces Putin, they will not have these cozy “bought and paid” for relationships with Western leaders to fall back on and will not be trusted from the outset and made to cease the Kremlin’s campaign of disinformation and subversive tactics that Putin has so successfully unleashed on naive Western countries because so many of them still view Putin as someone they have done business with.

    • Scradje

      Unfortunately there are sewer dwellers there who incredibly are worse than the rodent; fellow chekist filth Sergei Ivanov is just one of several. There are no shortage of crypto naцis with similar imperialist mindsets that have been influenced by turds like Zhirinovsky and Dugin either.

      • Sania

        bastardje, most turd in the world is u …

  • Screwdriver

    When sanctions not even working on completely isolated N. Korea, it looks silly when some still believe that anti-Russia sanctions can achieve something, other then stimulation of Russian economy.

    • Brent

      “Screwball”, North Korea is not completely isolated. Russia is still shipping oil there and paying for North Korean laborers to work to build all its football stadiums which will remain empty and unfinished next year. Russia is North Korea’s “puppetmaster” and even the missile and nuclear technology that North Korea suddenly and quickly developed is based on Russian technology….soon we’ll be seeing Russian LADA’s, young Russian brides and lazy hockey players being exported to “The Hermit Kingdom” too….

      When Drumpf gets impeached, the Republicans are going to have an axe to grind with Putin….

      • zorbatheturk

        North Korean coal is being shipped to Vladivostok, where it is reloaded onto Chinese ships and taken to China, the world’s biggest coal user, to get around the sanctions.

  • zorbatheturk

    RuSSian leaders have a bad habit of staying in office until they drop off.