Moscow is furious with the Biden Administration over a new round of sanctions that saw 10 Russian diplomats expelled from the United States.
The Kremlin immediately expelled 10 American diplomats in response and threatened to take “painful measures” against US business interests in Russia.
“Washington should realize that it will have to pay a price for the degradation of bilateral ties,” warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The new sanctions on Russia are largely a response to the SolarWinds cyberattack reported last December and alleged interference in the 2020 election in support of Donald Trump.
The SolarWinds incident, described by Microsoft President Brad Smith as “the largest and most sophisticated attack the world has ever seen,” was a months-long siege targeting information technology firm SolarWinds and its clients.
Through the distribution of malicious code, hackers were able to gain access to the Department of Homeland Security, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Treasury Department, the Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration, Microsoft, and intel.
Moscow denies any involvement in the attack, though federal investigators and cybersecurity analysts suspect Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as SVR.
“My bottom line is this: where it is in the interest of the United States to work with Russia, we should and we will,” said President Biden. “If Russia seeks to violate the interests of the United States, we will respond…We will always stand in defense of our country, our institutions, our people, and our allies.”
In addition to penalizing more than 30 individuals and entities believed to have participated in the SolarWinds attack and other crimes, the new measures expand Washington’s ability to sanction elements of the Russian economy and ban US financial institutions from participating in the primary market for ruble or non-ruble denominated bonds issued after June 14th, 2021.
“[The US] Treasury is leveraging this new authority to impose costs on the Russian government for its unacceptable conduct, including by limiting Russia’s ability to finance its activities and by targeting Russia’s malicious and disruptive cyber capabilities,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Author’s Note: Biden’s actions against Russia contrast sharply with those of his predecessor, who did everything he could to preserve our fragile relationship with Russia in the face of a growing allyship between Moscow and Beijing.
While the US and Russia certainly have their differences, Biden would do well to follow Trump’s lead so that we do not end up on the wrong side of a global power struggle.