WASHINGTON: U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia last week have yielded results “very close” to Washington’s hopes, a senior Biden government official said on Friday, as tensions seemed to ease between countries over Ukraine.
“Our intention was to act proportionately and to be targeted in our approach, and to signal that we had the ability to impose much higher costs if Russia continued or escalated its behavior,” said Daleep Singh, a leading White House international economic advisor, in interview.
“The results so far have been very close to what we expected.”
The Russian Ministry of Defense said on Friday that it had started returning military units from Crimea attached to its permanent bases after an increase of tens of thousands of soldiers near the border with Ukraine, which raised concerns about the risk of war.
Last week, the team of US President Joe Biden imposed extensive sanctions on Russia to punish Moscow for intimidating Ukraine, as well as interfering with last year’s election in the United States, cyber hacking and other alleged actions.
Biden approved provisions that would allow the authorities to easily expand sanctions in any area of the Russian economy in response to future provocations.
But Biden emphasized at the time that he had no desire to increase tensions. He also signaled that there would be retaliation for a liaison with Russian President Vladimir Putin two days before imposing sanctions.
The measures were part of a broader US government strategy to thaw relations with Moscow, which have deteriorated since Biden took office in January.
“They are just a tool that can advance a strategy, in this case, by creating leverage for a diplomatic process,” said Singh. “In the case of Russia, the objective of this process is a more stable and predictable relationship.”
Russia responded by asking 10 US diplomats to leave the country and suggested that the US ambassador return home for consultations, but they left the door open for further dialogue and a possible Biden-Putin summit.
The Kremlin has denied US claims that it has meddled in the American elections, orchestrated a cyber hack that used the American technology company SolarWinds Corp. to penetrate US government networks and used a nervous agent to poison the Kremlin critic, Alexei Navalny.
The White House has closely watched the treatment of Navalny, an opposition politician who was jailed for two and a half years in February for parole violations that he and his supporters said were forged.
On Friday, Navalny said he would begin to end a hunger strike after receiving medical attention. The deterioration of his health in Russian custody had alerted the West.