President Trump has previously been witheringly criticized for not taking an aggressive stance towards Russia, by both Democrats and war-hawk Republicans. It seems that Trump has conceded the point to those voices.
On Thursday, Trump admitted that it “certainly looks” like that Russia has a hand in the poisoning of a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal and the spy’s daughter. With such a blatant assassination, the time for a response from the US has come.
“I spoke with the prime minister and we are in deep discussions — a very sad situation. It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it,” Trump said, referring to the poisoning incident that took place in the United Kingdom. He further added that “Something that should never, ever happen, and we’re taking it very seriously.”
The U.S. along with its Western European allies has released a joint statement condemning this “abhorrent” attack and demanding that Russia be held to account.
White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, explained the situation, “This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behavior in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes,” and assured the public that “The United States is working together with our allies and partners to ensure that this kind of abhorrent attack does not happen again.”
As a result, Trump is planning to impose economic sanctions on a number of Russian organizations and individuals, who are said to be involved in a number of high-profile cyber attacks including the “NotPetya” malware attack and other international “destabilizing efforts.”
Pursuant to this end, the Treasury Department has identified 19 Russian individuals and five organizations to target. The Treasury has threatened to freeze the assets of any entity that does business with the blacklisted Russians.
Amongst these entities was the “Internet Research Agency,” which is said to have used fake social media accounts to influence the elections and cause disputes between the American public, as was previously hinted by Robert Mueller.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said “The Administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in U.S. elections, destructive cyber-attacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure,” while stating efforts that are being made to counter these attacks. “These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia,” Mnuchin told the reporters, adding “Treasury intends to impose additional CAATSA sanctions, informed by our intelligence community, to hold Russian government officials and oligarchs accountable for their destabilizing activities by severing their access to the U.S. financial system.”