U.S. Imposes New Russian Sanctions Including Restricting Export Licenses – UPDATE

U.S. Imposes New Russian Sanctions Including Restricting Export Licenses – UPDATE

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney released a statement this morning (April 28, 2014) announcing that additional sanctions are being placed on Russia because of the situation in Ukraine.  Asset freezes on 17 Russian companies and export license restrictions are among the new sanctions.

The statement is general so it is not clear at this point whether any of the actions will affect space-related activities.  The relevant part of the statement is as follows:

“The Department of the Treasury is imposing sanctions on seven Russian government officials, including two members of President Putin’s inner circle, who will be subject to an asset freeze and a U.S. visa ban, and 17 companies linked to Putin’s inner circle, which will be subject to an asset freeze.  In addition, the Department of Commerce has imposed additional restrictions on 13 of those companies by imposing a license requirement with a presumption of denial for the export, re-export or other foreign transfer of U.S.-origin items to the companies.  Further, today the Departments of Commerce and State have announced a tightened policy to deny export license applications for any high-technology items that could contribute to Russia’s military capabilities.  Those Departments also will revoke any existing export licenses that meet these conditions.”

Later in the day, the White House released a transcript of a telephone briefing in which a few — but not many — details were provided.  Two members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle were sanctioned and 17 “entities” that are “affiliated with the oligarchs we designated a few weeks ago, on March 20, including the Rotenberg brothers and Gennady Timchenko.”

Perhaps of more direct important to space activities are export restrictions.  A “senior administration official” says that export license applications at both the Department of State and Department of Commerce have been on hold since the beginning of March and they are being scrutinized to “see which ones involve technology that the Russian defense industrial complex is in need of, and those are the ones that will be denied.”  Microelectronics was cited as one example.

Meanwhile, the State Department said that “effective immediately” the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls will “deny pending applications for export or re-export of any high-technology defense articles or services regulated under the U.S. Munitions List … that contribute to Russia’s military capabilities.”  It also will revoke any existing licenses that meet those conditions.    Other pending applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. 

The Obama Administration is in the process of updating export control regulations on commercial satellites, but at the moment they remain on the U.S. Munitions List.   Several Russian rockets, including Proton, Soyuz, Zenit (which is partially Ukrainian), and Dnepr, are used to launch satellites that are manufactured in the United States or contain U.S. components.  Whether the Administration deems them to “contribute to Russia’s military capabilities” is an open question.  Two other interesting facets of the issue are that  International Launch Services (ILS), which markets the Proton rocket commercially, is a U.S.-based company, and the Soyuz rocket is launched not only from Russia, but from Europe’s Kourou launch site in South America a part of a European-Russian arrangement.  The United States wants to present a united front with Europe in imposing sanctions, but Europe has not announced its plans yet.

Note:  this article was updated at 11:00 pm ET on April 28, 2014.

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