Russian officials yawn and shrug shoulders in response to US Treasury's 'Kremlin Telephone Book Report'

US Treasury's 'Kremlin Telephone Book Report' raises many eyebrows in Moscow

On January 29, a closed briefing was held at US Congress, during which US Senators discussed anti-Russian sanctions. Neither US lawmakers, nor representatives of the State Department and other government structures reported any details about the meeting.

The so-called "Kremlin Report" or the "Kremlin List" was published soon afterwards. The report includes Russian politicians and businessmen, who, according to Washington, are members of  Russian President Putin's team.

As for the new sanctions that were discussed at the above-mentioned briefing, US officials discussed (judging from scanty reports) restrictive measures against enterprises of the Russian defence complex and their foreign counterparts. According to representatives of the State Department, the current restrictive measures have deprived Russia of contracts worth several billions of dollars. Yet, it is difficult to be specific here, as the meeting was held behind closed doors. After the meeting, however, several Democratic Congressmen accused the Trump administration of unwillingness to impose new sanctions against Russia.

A little later, State Department spokesman Heather Nauert indirectly confirmed this opinion. As she said, the United States did not see the need to impose new sanctions on the Russian defence industry, because the already effective measures against Russian defence companies have shown their effectiveness.

As for the Kremlin List, the document contains the names of 210 people - all, as Washington believes, are part of Putin's milieu. The entire Russian government, including its chairman, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, happens to be part of Putin's milieu, as US Treasury believes. The list includes all Russian wealthiest people according to Forbes Magazine - i.e. all major entrepreneurs  holding fortunes over one billion dollars. It is worthy of note that there is the classified part of the Kremlin List, which includes officials and entrepreneurs with a fortune of less than a billion dollars.

Officials with the US Treasury noted that the list did not imply restrictive measures against the persons named.

At the same time, the Kremlin List does not include all representatives of the Russian authorities and state corporations. For example, chairwoman of the Russian Central Bank Elvira Nabiullina and the head of Rosnano Anatoly Chubais do not appear on the list. Chairwoman of the Accounting Chamber Tatyana Golikova is not there either. Alexei Kudrin's name does not appear on the list: although he does not hold office in Russian power structures, is hardly a secret who in the Kremlin  listens to his opinions.

So there, there is the list and thee are sanctions. What will be the response? Judging by first reactions - Russia is not working on something impressive. "A look at the American list, which  the Treasury sent to Congress yesterday, creates (at least in its political part) a strong feeling that US security services, being so desperate to find the promised and, most importantly, provable compromising information against Russian politicians, have simply rewritten the Kremlin telephone book," Senator Konstantin Kosachev wrote on his Facebook page.

Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said the list looked like the book "Who's Who in Russian Politics." "As a member of the government, I was supposed to be on this list, the whole government is there, and there is nothing surprising in this. This is the list of persons who are obviously leading figures in Russian politics and business. This is not the sanctions list - this is the list that is going to be used for further decisions and assessments. We will keep an eye on the situation and evaluate whether there is a need to respond. For the time being, there are no reasons for action so far," he said.

The head of the Human Rights Council, Mikhail Fedotov, who also appears on the list, called his authors lazy. "I understand that it was not politicians but bureaucrats who made the list, and like all bureaucrats, they are lazy, so they just took the list of all presidential advisors from the Kremlin's website and included them on their list. One does not have to take any intellectual effort for this," he said.

Alexei Navalny's companion Leonid Volkov was also disappointed:

"As expected, this is utter rubbish. US Congress ordered the Treasury to prepare the list of most influential Russian officials and oligarchs within 180 days, and the Treasury has formally executed the formal assignment. They have used exactly 180 days and compiled the list that could be made within a couple of hours:

a) all officials, starting from a certain level (primarily from the administration of the president);

b) all business people with fortunes worth more than $1 billion."

It appears that Moscow will simply shrug the "Kremlin List" off. After all, US Ambassador to Russia John Huntsman urged the Russian authorities several days ago not to show a too emotional relation to the publication of the report.

More importantly, Russia does have many reasons to respond to USA's actions, and the number of those reasons is more than enough.

Oleg Artyukov

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Author`s name Oleg Artyukov