The president has been widely criticized for supposedly not doing enough to combat Russian aggression, and it’s hardly as though that criticism is unfounded. He has failed to consistently come out strong against Russia on all but essentially one issue — that of the recent chemical attack on Syrian civilians carried out by the Russia-backed Assad regime.
Even still, though, the president has generally looked the other way when it’s come to Russian efforts to interfere in Western democratic political systems.
Some of the steps to addressing Russian aggression that his administration has taken include the sanctioning earlier this month of the Kremlin-intertwined Oleg Deripaska, who has been hit with allegations including money laundering, extortion, and ordering the murder of a businessman by the Treasury Department.
That move put the future of the Russian aluminum giant Rusal in jeopardy since Deripaska owns a 48 percent share of the company, controlling it, according to Bloomberg, via a shareholder agreement that includes Glencore Plc and Viktor Vekselberg, who has also faced Western scrutiny.
Now, however, the Treasury Department has moved to ease sanctions on Rusal — for the time being at least — while it considers an appeal from the company of its placement on the U.S. sanctions list. The period during which companies are permitted to continue doing business with the Russian metals giant has been extended by about half a year, although the extra time is termed a “wind down” period meant to provide Western companies with the opportunity for a smoother potential exit from their dealings with the company.
In the end, the United States has said that it is willing to lift sanctions against Rusal altogether if Deripaska sells his stake in the company. The company itself is huge, so that no doubt would not be entirely a loss for Deripaska. Rusal produces approximately 6 percent of the world’s aluminum and has operating locations all around the world.
It’s the wide scope of Rusal beyond Deripaska that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin cited in a statement justifying the United States’ stance on the company.
‘RUSAL has felt the impact of U.S. sanctions because of its entanglement with Oleg Deripaska, but the U.S. government is not targeting the hardworking people who depend on RUSAL and its subsidiaries. Given the impact on our partners and allies, we are issuing a general license extending the maintenance and wind-down period while we consider RUSAL’s petition.’
That statement from the Treasury Secretary had a massive impact on global markets, causing the price of aluminum to fall by as much as 9.4 percent and the price of other metals like palladium and nickel to fall as well in the face of dwindling concerns that the United States would be ramping up its targeting of Russian metal giants.
The Russian whose company we are still figuring out how to deal with here is hardly a bright and shiny figure; besides his already mentioned crimes, he has been entangled in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in our elections. One report from The Washington Post claimed that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort offered Deripaska “private briefings” on the state of the 2016 election while it was still ongoing.
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