Here are five things that happened this week in the world of economic sanctions that I think you should know about.
This week’s briefing covers the weeks ending 28 January and 4 February 2022.
- The EU Council published conclusions on the European security situation following a meeting of representatives of EU member states. The document promises “a wide array of sectoral and individual restrictive measures that would be adopted in coordination with partners” in response to “further military aggression by Russia against Ukraine.”
- In related news, the UK’s foreign secretary announced legislation to expand the UK’s Russia-related sanctions regulations to target “a much broader range of individuals and businesses.” Without naming specific targets, the announcement states the change would allow the UK “to hit the Russian state and its strategic interests where it really hurts” and that “[n]othing is off the table.”
- The US government published an advisory drawing attention to potential risks facing businesses operating in Myanmar. In addition to sanctions and money laundering risks, the document points to several sectors where foreign businesses could be exposed to individuals or entities responsible for undermining democratic processes, facilitating corruption, or committing human rights abuses in Myanmar. Meanwhile, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) named seven individuals and two entities as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) under Executive Order 14014 to mark the one-year anniversary of the country’s military coup in February 2021.
- OFAC named an Indonesia-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order 13224 for allegedly providing financial support to militants of the Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI) in Syria “under the guise of humanitarian aid.” According to a Treasury Department news release, the organization “engaged in some legitimate humanitarian activities,” but was basically “a cover to raise funds for MMI sympathizers in Syria.”
- OFAC released seven new FAQs giving examples of humanitarian-related activities that are permissible for US persons acting in Afghanistan, including activities covered by recently issued general licenses under OFAC’s terrorism-related sanctions regulations. Meanwhile, the US Treasury Department published a read out of remarks made by Under Secretary Brian Nelson to leaders of various NGOs emphasizing the US government’s support for humanitarian transactions in Afghanistan.
The EU and the UK have joined with the United States to present a united front in response to the developing situation on the Ukrainian border. While the recent EU and UK statements contain fewer details than legislation under consideration in the US Congress, the world powers appear to be on the same page rhetorically. This seems to represent a growing consensus that the threat of strong multilateral sanctions may be giving Russian military planners second thoughts about the costs of further incursions into Ukrainian territory (along with less kinetic actions such as cyberattacks and so on). My team at Steptoe has been busy analyzing the potential US, EU, and UK sanctions. You can read our blog posts about it here and here. (And check out our webinar coming up on 9 February 2022.)
The US government’s new Myanmar business advisory has a 26-word title that translates into “watch out!” Despite its wordiness, the advisory does not itself create any new restrictions on US persons transacting in Myanmar. The document is similar to advisories issued in relation to Hong Kong, Cambodia, and China’s Xinjiang Province last year. As a reminder, Myanmar is not subject to comprehensive sanctions, and many types of transactions are still permissible.