News that President Donald Trump was easing sanctions against Russia was refuted almost immediately, like so many other stories.
The Department of the Treasury said Thursday that it would allow U.S. companies to make limited transactions with the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s intelligence agency. Possibly eager to establish a connection between the new U.S. president and Russia, numerous media outlets and journalists were quick to claim that Trump was easing, and even lifting, sanctions against Russia.
“I haven’t eased anything,” Trump told reporters at the White House Thursday.
“We’re not easing sanctions,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed, saying that, “It is a regular course of action.”
Guys, I’m not sure this is the story you think it is. Looks to me like correcting an unintended consequence (export licenses). https://t.co/MzJDtvrUov
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) February 2, 2017
As it turns out, the move was a “technical fix” planned by the Obama administration.
“Our understanding is that this is not the start of sanctions easing,” Ian Bremmer, president of the consulting firm Eurasia Group told reporters.
“It’s a rule change clearing up a problem with the sanctions regime that prevented U.S. exporters of non-sanctioned electronic devices from complying with both U.S. and Russian law. The problem was identified by the Obama administration, and this appears to be the response to address it.”
Even Arizona Sen. John McCain, who has called for tougher sanctions on Russia, agreed that Thursday’s move was “largely a technical fix.”