WASHINGTON — The United States expanded its sanctions war against Russia to China on Thursday, announcing punitive measures against a Chinese military organisation for buying Russian fighter jets and missiles.
The US State Department said it was placing financial sanctions on the Equipment Development Department (EDD) of the Chinese Ministry of Defence, and its top administrator, for its recent purchase of Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 surface-to-air missiles.
Officials said it was the first time a third country has been punished under the CAATSA sanctions legislation for dealing with Russia, and signaled the Trump administration’s will to risk relations with other countries in its campaign against Moscow.
They also said that the US could consider similar action against other countries taking delivery of Russian fighter jets and missiles. US ally Turkey is currently talking with Moscow about an S400 deal.
"The ultimate target of these sanctions is Russia," a senior administration official told journalists, insisting on anonymity.
"CAATSA sanctions in this context are not intended to undermine the defence capabilities of any particular country."
CAATSA, or the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, was passed in 2017 as a tool that gives the Trump administration more ways to target Russia, Iran and North Korea with economic and political sanctions.
The legislation allows the government to take action against those companies and individuals who have been placed on the CAATSA blacklist.
EDD and its director Li Shangfu became targets after taking delivery over the past year of the jets and missiles from Rosoboronexport, Russia’s main arms export entity already on the CAATSA blacklist for its support of the Assad regime in Syria.
At the same time, the State Department also announced it was placing 33 Russian intelligence and military-linked actors on its sanctions blacklist under the CAATSA rules.
All of them -- defense related firms, officers of the GRU military intelligence agency, and people associated with the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency disinformation group -- have been on previous US sanctions lists and 28 of them have already been indicted by Russia election meddling investigator Robert Mueller.
The sanctions freeze any of EDD’s and Li’s assets in US jurisdictions.
They also restrict EDD’s access to global financial markets by blocking foreign exchange transactions under US jurisdiction or any transactions in the US financial system.
The senior official stressed that CAATSA is not going to be implemented across the board, but that the US was choosing Russia’s sale of "bigger ticket items" of "new, fancy, qualitatively significant stuff" that could have a "security impact" on the United States. — AFP