US President Joe Biden’s administration is considering what sanctions it could impose on Russia if it invades Ukraine, ahead of a meeting scheduled for Monday (January 10th) between US diplomats and Kremlin officials.
In this regard, some officials in the Biden administration warned of the economic damage caused by US sanctions and the risk of Russian cyber-attacks, as some reports by the US Treasury and State Department revealed that the sanctions imposed by the US government on the Russian company “Gazprom” or on the Central Bank The Russian has damaged economies around the world.
These sanctions may lead to the possibility of raising gas prices, or hindering European investment with Russia, at a time when inflation is rising throughout and most of the country suffers from economic problems; Because of the outbreak of “Omicron”, especially in Europe.
These negative effects could have an impact on the United States, while some officials in the American administration believe that the sanctions that are being evaluated now will naturally have an impact on “Washington”, but it can be remedied; Because these strict sanctions would limit Russian interference in countries such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and others.
In this context, Jeff Schott, a senior fellow at the US Peterson Institute for International Economics who focuses on international trade policy and economic sanctions, stated that the extent of the negative reaction will depend largely on the criteria of sanctions and the extent of the negative effects on Europe.
Targeting Russian commercial banks
The US administration is studying options that include targeting major Russian commercial banks, imposing sanctions on the Russian energy sector, blocking Russia’s access to bond markets, cutting Russia off from the international payment system “SWIFT”, and tightening export control measures.
The report added that among the most severe economic sanctions that the United States and its allies can impose on Russia is to disrupt the completion of the Russian gas pipeline project to Germany “Nord Stream 2”; As it is expected to represent about 10-15% of gas consumption in the European Union when operational.
Steps to disrupt the pipeline
It is worth noting that US officials have tried to pressure Germany to block the pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine, and in the same context, German Foreign Minister Annalina Birbock agreed last month that in the event of an escalation against Ukraine, she would direct the pipeline to be shut down.
US officials are also studying the possibility of imposing sanctions on Russia in cyberspace, where the United States of America can use its vital infrastructure to stop the Russian cyber incursion; So the Biden administration is coordinating the response to maximize influence on Russia.
In a related context, a US official said: Whatever the US administration decides in coordination with allies in Europe, it is the right path to protect the interests and security of the country, adding that the United States is ready to bear that high cost in order to deter Russia.
Discussions about potential Russian cyber activity
On the other hand, a senior US administration official explained that recent National Security Council meetings included discussions about potential Russian cyber activity in the event of an escalation of tensions with the United States over Ukraine, and in the meantime, the White House oversaw the communication of federal agencies with American companies, and encouraged them to Maintain strong cybersecurity protection.
Another official said that while there were no currently identified threats to US security, Washington was aware of the potential for Moscow to consider escalating its destabilizing actions in ways that might affect others outside Ukraine.
It is worth noting that the Department of Energy in the United States of America held a briefing with major electric utility companies, natural gas and oil in America during the past month; To review Russia’s history of disruptive cyber operations in Ukraine and other parts of the world.
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That briefing detailed technical details of Russia’s cyberattacks in parts of Ukraine that led to power outages in 2015 and 2016, as well as recent Russian cyber activities, such as the 2020 spying campaign that exploited SolarWinds.
Monitoring Russian activities in cyberspace
In addition, US President Joe Biden has sent a message to officials in the electric utilities sector and energy operators that they need to be vigilant and “raise awareness” while monitoring Russian activities that may have repercussions in cyberspace.
Rising tensions abroad, particularly in Eastern Europe, are set to change the cybersecurity landscape, said Jim Lane, executive director of DNG-ISAC, a clearinghouse for information on cyber threats to natural gas in Europe.
Separately, the White House and senior officials are also discussing potential export control measures that could halt Russia’s ability to import smartphones, major aircraft, auto components, and many other items; This threatens to have significant impacts on Russian consumers, industrial processes and employment.
In this context, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken reiterated on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, that if Russia does not commit to “de-escalation diplomacy” during the talks next week, and instead renews its aggression against Ukraine, the Kremlin will suffer “serious consequences.” by the United States and its allies.
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