US Sanctions Against Russian Spy Service Threatened Much Legitimate Trade

Tech Industry Lobbied Heavily for Changes to Sanctions Effort

Near the end of the Obama Administration, the US imposed a new series of sanctions against Russia, nominally to punish them for allegations that they were “hacking the election.” Among the sanctions was a ban on business dealing with Russia’s FSB spy service.

This sparked a flurry of lobbying efforts from US tech companies, and indeed US exporters in general, who noted that inadvertently the sanctions would effectively ban almost all legitimate trade with the Russian Federation. Clearly changes had to be made.

That’s because the FSB isn’t just an intelligence agency, it also oversees all importation of technology that contains any sort of encryption. Meaning to block trade with a spy agency, the Obama Administration had actually forbidden American companies from dealing with the regulator that would allow the import of almost any electronics.

The trade implications would be vast, and while some anti-Russia people were fine with the sanctions going way farther than intended, it has ultimately forced the Commerce Department to revise the ill-conceived sanctions so as to limit the damage done to US trade.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.