Russia's recovery from economic recession could be complicated by sanctions announced recently by US President Donald Trump, with still greater potential of painful restrictions on investors and Russian companies seeking to raise capital in Western markets. This year, the US Treasury initiated new sanctions against Russian persons and entities for activities including the alleged poisoning in the UK of former FSB Officer Skripal and his daughter as well as Moscow's alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

  • The sanctions announced in April targeted seven Russian oligarchs and the 12 companies they own or control, 17 senior Russian government officials, and a state-owned Russian weapons trading company and its subsidiary, Russian Financial Corporation Bank, striking at allies of President Vladimir Putin. Several titans of Russia’s private industry, including Suleiman Kerimov, Oleg Deripaska, and Viktor Vekselberg, were among those targeted.
  • Share prices of sanctioned companies fell in the next day's trading after sanctions were announced. Share prices on the Rusal, for which Deripaska is president, slumped by 18 percent, a record low. Russian stock indexes RTS and MOEX also declined: RTS lost about 11 percent, and MOEX about 8 percent.
  • The US also announced sanctions in March to address ongoing cyber-attacks emanating from Russia as well as for Russia's alleged election interference. The sanctions targeted five entities and 19 individuals.

Soft oil prices and tight monetary and fiscal policy only exacerbated the effects of targeted sanctions by the US, EU, and Canada—later joined by Australia, Japan, and Switzerland, among others—on the Russian economy during 2014 to 2015. Among the most powerful sanctions imposed, the US joined the EU in 2014 in sectoral sanctions on Russia's financial, defense, and energy sectors, to include Russia's largest bank (Sberbank), a major arms maker and arctic (Rostec), and deepwater and shale exploration by its biggest oil companies (Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil, Surgutneftegas, and Rosneft). As a countermeasure to these sanctions, in August 2014, Russia banned food imports from countries that had imposed sanctions against it. 

  • During 2015, Russian GDP decreased sharply by 3 percent, the ruble depreciated by more than 50 percent against the US dollar, and inflation increased from six to 13 percent.
  • Russian companies struggled during 2014 and 2015 to raise funding on western capital markets because of financial sanctions, with new credit falling below potential levels by the equivalent of 1 to 2 percent of GDP per year, according to the Institute of Economic Forecasting of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
  • Sanctions made not only inward investment fall, but outward as well, a trend economists attribute to reduced purchasing activity in the US and the UK.
  • Sanctions have also reshaped US-Russia trade dynamics. Since 2013, Russian commodity exports to the US have decreased by 48 percent and now make up only 3.3 percent of Russia's total exports. Russia's imports from the US have decreased as well, falling by 44 percent, and now constituting 6 percent of total Russian imports. Learn more about how sanctions affected Russia's trade with the EU and other countries here.

Additional US sanctions were expected this month in response to Russia's alleged support for Syria's chemical weapons attack on civilians as well as an expansion of sanctions to include new Russian sovereign debt but neither has been implemented. Market damage from US sanctions is already measurable, however, and has the potential to grow as uncertainty takes hold in markets and among investors.

  • The US Treasury Department decided that expansion of sanctions on Russian debt will hurt global financial markets and businesses of Russian and US investors and has shelved these sanctions. Meanwhile, President Trump publicly walked back his plans to impose sanctions related to the reported chemical attacks in Syria.

 

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