This week, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland flew to Moscow for talks. The diplomat is known for her involvement in the Ukrainian Euromaidan, which divided Russia and the West and initiated the sanctions war. Interestingly, Nuland's trip to Russia became possible only after the U.S. agreed to lift sanctions on several Russians. Prior to that, no one had been able to leave the blacklist. Businessman Oleg Deripaska was the most successful in this case. After a long legal battle, he managed to get his companies out of the restriction, but he still remains under sanctions. Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress is discussing new restrictions against 35 Russians. In an interview with Lenta.ru, Robert Strick, head of the Washington-based lobbying firm Stryk Global Diplomacy, explained how U.S. politicians use the sanctions tool, who really decides on the blacklist and what they have to do to get off it. Robert Strick: Sanctions are somewhere between diplomacy and war. It is a way for politicians in the U.S. government to deal with foreign policy issues without starting a war.
The way it usually happens: the U.S. National Security Council brings to the president a draft of sanctions against an individual, a company, or sometimes a foreign government. The White House forwards the information to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which forwards it to the Department of Justice and the State Department. A date is set, guidlines are set, and then sanctions are imposed.
This tool was rarely used before the election of George W. Bush, only in the most delicate situations. It became much more common after the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, and even more common under the administrations of Barack Obama and Donald Trump. For example, a huge number of sanctions are now in effect against Russia, not only against the government, but also against individuals and businesses.
Fighting against sanctions requires lawyers - to get licenses and work legally under OFAC guidelines. But this is actually a political job - you have to do lobbying, communicate with professional politicians in Washington. Trying to get something out of them.