The U.S. Treasury on Thursday lifted some sanctions slapped on Russia by the Obama administration, publishing an amendment to “authorize certain transactions” with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).
In a statement, the Treasury Department’s new authorization allows U.S. firms to pay up to $5,000 a year to the FSB, which oversees technology imports into Russia. American tech companies can also seek licenses from the FSB, so as long as the products aren’t used in Crimea or violate preexisting sanctions.
According to the Treasury order, it “does not authorize the exportation, reexportation, or provision of goods or technology to or on behalf of the Federal Security Service.”
The Trump administration, meanwhile, denied it’s rolling back sanctions on the Kremlin.
“I haven’t eased anything,” President Trump said inside Roosevelt Room of the White House, The Hill reported. The sanctions were put in place by former President Barack Obama in response to alleged Russian hacking and interference of the U.S. election, which Russia has denied.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer argued it’s “common for Treasury after sanctions are put in place to go back and look at specific carve outs for different industries or products and services.” He added: “It is a regular course of action that Treasury does often when sanctions are imposed.”
Eric Lorber, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, tried to explain the new amendment on the sanctions.
“The new General License permits US persons who are shipping technology goods to Russia (which is generally permitted) to get certificates/licenses, etc. from the FSB to continue exporting those goods to Russia,” Lorber said on Twitter.
“Once the FSB was designated [by Obama], however, securing these licenses became prohibited, and US exporters could no longer send their goods to Russia,” Lorber wrote. “This was very likely an unintended consequence of the 13694 designation, and hence why OFAC provided a GL to correct” it.