Monday, April 10, 2017

U.S. Sanctions and Russia's Economy

In response to Russia's annexation of the Crimean region of neighboring Ukraine and its support of separatist militants in Ukraine's east, the United States imposed a number of targeted economic sanctions on Russian individuals, entities, and sectors. The United States coordinated its sanctions with other countries, particularly the European Union (EU). Russia retaliated against sanctions by banning imports of certain agricultural products from countries imposing sanctions, including the United States. U.S. policymakers are debating the use of economic sanctions in U.S. foreign policy toward Russia, including whether sanctions should be kept in place or further tightened. A key question in this debate is the impact of the Ukraine-related sanctions on Russia's economy and U.S. economic interests in Russia.

Economic Conditions in Russia

Russia faced a number of economic challenges in 2014 and 2015, including capital flight, rapid depreciation of the ruble, exclusion from international capital markets, inflation, and domestic budgetary pressures. Growth slowed to 0.7% in 2014 before contracting sharply by 3.7% in 2015. The extent to which U.S. and EU sanctions drove the downturn is difficult to disentangle from the impact of a dramatic drop in the price of oil, a major source of export revenue for the Russian government, or economic policy decisions by the Russian government. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated in 2015 that U.S. and EU sanctions in response to the conflict in Ukraine and Russia's countervailing ban on agricultural imports reduced Russian output over the short term by as much as 1.5%.

Russia's economy, more recently, is showing some signs of recovery, in part due to higher oil prices, a flexible exchange rate regime, and sizeable foreign exchange reserves, among other factors. The IMF projects Russia's economy will grow by 1.1% in 2017.

U.S. Economic Interests

When the sanctions were announced in 2014, U.S. business groups raised concerns that sanctions harm American manufacturers, jeopardize American jobs, and cede business opportunities to firms from other countries. When the sanctions were rolled out in 2014, news reports cited a number of U.S. firms that were adversely affected by U.S. sanctions on Russia and Russia's retaliatory measures. There are questions about the overall impact of the sanctions on the U.S. economy, however. Russia accounts for a small portion of total U.S. trade and foreign investment. U.S. sanctions also target a specific Russian individuals and entities and, in some cases, restrict only specific types of economic transactions.

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