Outgoing President Obama Extends Russian Sanctions to 2018

On January 13, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a yearlong extension of sanctions on the Russian Federation, declaring that Russia has continued to threaten Ukraine’s “peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.” The sanctions, originally imposed in 2014 over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and intervention in Ukraine, are now set to expire in March 2018. Since Russia seized Crimea, there have been three rounds of US sanctions, many of which were also imposed by EU countries. The first round, which was instituted the day after the Crimean referendum on unification with Russia in March 2014, imposed a travel ban on and seized the assets of officials involved with the conflict in Crimea.

The second round of sanctions came in April 2014. They banned American individuals and companies from having business transactions with Russian officials and companies that are connected to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

As the war in eastern Ukraine intensified, a third round of sanctions was passed. These targeted four major Russian institutions: Rosneft and Novatek, two of Russia’s largest energy companies, as well as two major financial institutions, Gazprombank and Vnesheconombank. Gazprombank is the third-largest bank in Russia, while Vnesheconombank is a state-run development bank and pension fund management service.

Late in 2014, similar sanctions were imposed on Russian defense firms and various Crimean industries. The effect of the sanctions, combined with low oil prices, has been devastating. Russian GDP shrank in August 2014 and has not yet had a quarter of growth since.


Throughout 2014, Russia imposed similar travel restrictions on American and European politicians. Furthermore, Russia also implemented a one-year import ban on agricultural products from nations that had supported sanctions against it.

The debate over sanctions took on a new light after US intelligence officials accused Moscow of attempting to interfere in the American election. In response, the Obama administration added additional sanctions. The outgoing administration also expelled a number of Russian diplomats charged with collecting intelligence. While disputed for a time by the incoming Trump administration, the revelation of interference in November’s election has exacerbated tensions between the United States and Russia.

Unless the incoming administration changes course, the sanctions regarding the Ukraine conflict will remain in place until Russia discontinues its support of Ukrainian separatists or until the sanctions expire in 2018. President Donald Trump has made statements suggesting that he might be in support of ending sanctions in exchange for a new reduction of nuclear arms.